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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Dumping plagues school

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

HAWAI'I KAI Kaiser High School wants the community to know its campus is not a dumping site, and if carpets, computers, Christmas trees and car batteries continue to appear, the school will consider putting the campus off-limits to the community after school hours.

That means no more recycling during nonschool hours or exercising on the school's track, and only authorized users will be allowed on campus, said Anthony Gayer, Kaiser High School vice principal.

"We've talked about removing the recycling bin, but we want to be a good neighbor," he said. "There are a lot of responsible people out there wanting to help us and protect the environment."

Schools around the island have been battling illegal dumping for years now. But it has become worse as schools deal with hauling away couches, computers, fans, tires and party leftovers that are left in school trash bins.

It costs the state Department of Education an average of $600 a month statewide for tipping fees to remove all the junk.

At Kaiser, people routinely dump old carpeting, Christmas trees, car batteries, old computers and broken furniture next to the white recycling bin that is used to collect plastic, glass and newspapers. The school has been battling the dumping of discarded car batteries for some time now. School officials suspect a repair company makes late night drops, rather than taking the batteries to a legitimate battery recycler, said Suzanne Jones, city recycling coordinator, which oversees the community recycling bin program.

Since the end of December, more than 80 Christmas trees were hauled away that were all left next to the city-operated white recycling container, Gayer said. The school has mentioned illegal dumping several times in its parent newsletters. Small signs are posted near the city's white recycling bin telling people not to dump their trash.

"It's an eyesore," Gayer said. "We've talked about nighttime security, but that's too expensive. We may have to mount cameras to catch the illegal dumpers. We hate to do that or put up a gate, but if the dumping continues, we may have to close the campus."

Jones said the community might still think that the school is the site of an old mulching program that encouraged people to bring their trees to the school but was discontinued because the city now does curbside green-waste, Jones said.

"We have so many schools that are committed to this (recycling) program," Jones said. "Kaiser is committed and believes that if it has to take a few aspirins for the headaches, the program is worth it. The schools have really embraced this program."

To deal with the old car batteries, Kaiser calls the city recycling program, which makes arrangements for crews to come and remove them, Jones said. She said about a half-dozen batteries show up every month.

The bins are a source of revenue for the schools. There are 75 locations islandwide, Jones said, and the city is responsible for picking up the bins.

At nearby Kamiloiki Elementary School, a gate is locked after-hours but people can walk to the recycling bin, said principal Loretta Yee.

"The only thing we've found is we had someone sleeping inside our bin," Yee said.

Said Gayer: "Part of being a school is to be a good community neighbor. We don't want to isolate ourselves from the community."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.