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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 1, 2006

What's stopping full-scale recycling?

 •  The burning questions of 2006

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Environment Writer

Recycling and associated issues from curbside pick-up to bottle redemptions are always hot topics in Hawai'i, where conservation-oriented residents often express disappointment that recycling isn't as widespread as you'd find in other areas of the country.

The issues consume City Hall and the Legislature, and no doubt will command headlines into the new year as the effort to make recycling second-nature continues.

Will O'ahu residents continue to argue against the establishment of new landfills in their backyards? Is the answer the container recycling program, launched in 2005 with fits and starts?

There's little question that curbside recycling increases the amount of recyclable material that is removed from the waste stream. But as with many recycling programs, curbside isn't the only system, and with apologies to the people who've fought so hard for it, it may not even be the best system in many places.

Honolulu recycling coordinator Suzanne Jones says one way to promote recycling is to "make it so convenient that it's just as easy as throwing it away." Curbside is like that, but it has downsides as well, not the least of which is that it's expensive. A lot of that cost is in the collection system, which involves maintaining equipment, buying fuel and having a staff to cruise the city streets for recycling bins.

Some Mainland communities charge their residents extra for signing up for curbside recycling. If you're willing to haul it to a drop-off site yourself, then no charge. In some towns, curbside recycling is available in neighborhoods where it's efficient to make the pick-ups, and it's not available in areas where pick-up is more expensive. Some communities have even voted to drop curbside recycling, going back to a cheaper system of dropoff locations.

There's no one-size-fits-all here.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann insists curbside recycling isn't dead, but that the city is going to push forward with recycling options that will divert more waste from the landfill than curbside would guaranteeing recycling will remain a hot topic in Hawai'i in 2006.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.