Used goods are dumped as recyling options dwindle

Increased processing costs, less demand for recycled goods have signaled the end to many county programs

July 17, 2016

By COLLEEN UECHI - Staff Writer (cuechi@mauinews.com), The Maui News

Some local recycling companies are receiving more waste than they can handle, as residents turn to new places for disposing materials the county can no longer recycle.

On July 1, the county halted its recycling programs for scrap metals, household batteries and paint, due to recycling costs growing and the market for recycled items taking a downturn, officials said. Malama Maui Nui, a nonprofit that handles some county programs, had recycled more than 20 tons of batteries and redistributed more than 13,000 gallons of reusable paint up to that point.

Habitat for Humanity Maui used to refer residents to the county's Malama Maui Nui program to dispose of paint and household batteries. Now, however, these types of materials are showing up at Habitat's doorstep, said Karen Motooka, manager of Habitat's ReStore program.


Habitat for Humanity ReStore Manager Karen Motooka muscles in Restore.

ReStore, located in Wailuku, accepts new and used construction and remodeling materials, then resells the items to the public to help support the building of affordable housing. Last year, ReStore diverted more than 12,000 pounds of useable materials from the landfill. However, the nonprofit has neither the funding nor the staffing to dispose of unuseable and hazardous materials, Motooka said.

"ReStore already has an illegal dumping problem of mattresses, appliances, trash and chemicals almost on a daily basis," she said. "This attracts scavengers and more illegal dumping. This will only increase now that the public has less resources to recycle."

While several places on island accept metals, Maui lacks household battery and paint recycling options.

One of the only programs accepting used batteries and paint is EnviroServices & Training Center, a Hawaii-based company that does hazardous waste collection events across the state. It accepts oil-based paints, car and household batteries, as well as everything from aerosols and antifreeze to old medication and thermometers. However, residents must wait six months to recycle with the program. The last event on Maui took place in June, with another scheduled for December, said Sarah Martin, who works as administrative support at EnviroServices.

Since the county program stopped, managers of other programs also said they've been getting more customers and more material that once ended up in the landfill. Steve Williams, manager of Reynolds Recycling in Kahului, said finding a way to get rid of the items comes at a cost to the company. Reynolds accepts nonferrous metals like aluminum, brass and copper.

"The program (the county) had till June was perfect," Williams said. "Everybody was going to the landfill."

Like Motooka, Williams worried that "people are going to start leaving stuff all over the place."

Clancy Woodhams, manager of Hammerhead Metals Recycling located at the Central Maui Baseyard, said the company has averaged 30 more customers a day, but that it would be able to handle the extra load. Hammerhead recycles metals and most appliances but not household batteries or paint.

Maui County's battery and paint collection programs ended after motor oil recycling costs increased to $53,000, county Communications Director Rod Antone said in a June 30 Maui News story. State funding for used motor oil was $9,000 in the last fiscal year, compared to $90,000 the year before that. The cost of scrap metals, meanwhile, had gone down from $500 to $200 a ton, Antone said.

Due to motor oil contamination risks, the county "had to make some tough decisions," Antone said.

Hannibal Spalding, owner of E-H International, agreed that prices for recycled materials have been on a downward trend since the end of last year.

"It's something that's not a stable thing right now," Spalding said. "The prices are up one day and down another day."

But County Council Member Elle Cochran, chairwoman of the council's Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee, also noted in the June 30 story that the Department of Environmental Management received a $4.5 million increase for the current fiscal year. She wondered why "they cannot seem to operate basic services that have been functioning fine up to this point."

County recycling coordinator Stacia Ash said the department was working to find a budgetary solution to reinstate the scrap metals program.

When it comes to paint, the county and Malama Maui Nui recommended solidifying or absorbing the liquid before disposing of it and placing it in multiple bags to be taken to the landfill. Meanwhile, household batteries should be wrapped in newspaper and disposed in normal rubbish. They can also be recycled via a mail-back program.

In the meantime, residents can recycle metals at:

* Reynolds Recycling, 380 Alamaha St., Kahului. Call 385-1867. Buys aluminum at 25 cents a pound, brass at 75 cents, copper wire at $1.60, unsoldered pipes at $1.20, soldered pipes at $1.10, stainless steel at 5 cents, and aluminum rims at $5 each.

* E-H International, Central Maui Baseyard, Puunene. Call 868-4362. Buys aluminum up to 20 cents a pound, brass up to 75 cents, copper up to $1.50, stainless steel up to 20 cents.

* Hammerhead Metals, Central Maui Baseyard, Puunene. Call 280-8844. Charges 2.5 cents a pound to drop off scrap metals like tin, steel and rebar. Nonferrous metals are graded by a technician.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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