Curbside recycling plan on agenda
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
The state would require the city to begin curbside recycling under a bill that lawmakers will discuss at a hearing this afternoon at the state Capitol. But city officials questioned the fairness of singling out Honolulu.
"I think it's unfair to only target one county," said City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz.
The only positive he could see was that a state move to mandate recycling could mean the state was willing to pay the cost of running such a program.
Jeff Mikulina of the Sierra Club's Hawai'i chapter said the state needs to step in and force the city to begin such a program because Mayor Mufi Hannemann has "turned his back on O'ahu's solid-waste crisis."
The group is one of the chief advocates for the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Carol Fukunaga, D-11th (Makiki, Pawa'a).
Hannemann announced in October that he would abandon a planned household curbside recycling program created by the former mayor but work on other ways to reduce waste going into the island's only municipal landfill.
On top of that, Mikulina said, came last week's news that the state Health Department was fining the city and the landfill's operator $2.8 million for 18 types of environmental violations.
But Hannemann spokesman Bill Brennan said the city is working to reduce waste to the landfill in various ways that are more efficient and cost-effective than curbside recycling. He cited expanded green waste and bulky item pickup as examples.
"The city's trash has been a priority for the first year we've been in office," Brennan said. And he said city estimates indicate a curbside recycling program could cost an additional $300 per household per year.
That is about the same amount that the city is trying to give back in tax relief to property owners stung by skyrocketing property assessments, Brennan noted.
He said the city shifted emphasis in the wake of the state's nickel-deposit program, which diverted some of what people would have thrown out into something that they redeem themselves. Aside from the Sierra Club, Brennan said, "We're not hearing a big public outcry for curbside recycling."
Both Dela Cruz and Brennan said state government should leave county issues to municipal government.
Mikulina said the bill does call for the appropriation of money to help pay for the program. He noted that one company proposed to pay the city to operate the program before Hannemann stopped the plan.
"Some cities actually save taxpayers dollars," Mikulina said. "We need to have a waste solution for O'ahu."
Mikulina said he remains hopeful about another proposal at the state Legislature to require retail stores such as supermarkets to redeem recyclable containers.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at email@example.com.