Programs for scrap metals, household batteries and paint to be eliminated

June 30, 2016

By MELISSA TANJI - Staff Writer (mtanji@mauinews.com) ,The Maui News

Beginning Friday, several county-sponsored recycling programs for scrap metals, household batteries and paint will end.

County officials say there is no longer enough funds to cover the programs because costs have increased for recycling for some goods, while the market for recycling scrap metals has turned sour.

But Council Member Elle Cochran, who chairs the council's Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee, questioned the cuts, noting that the Department of Environmental Management was given a $4.5 million increase in the next fiscal year that begins Friday, compared to the current fiscal year.

"And yet, they cannot seem to operate basic services that have been functioning fine up to this point," Cochran said in a email Wednesday.

"I have a serious problem with this administration playing hardball using our residential and environmental essential services as bargaining tools when requesting increased funding budget amendments," she said.

The collection of household batteries and paint are being halted after today at the nonprofit Malama Maui Nui, which administers several countywide repurposing and recycling programs, including the ones for batteries and paint. They are the only ones on the island who conduct the battery and paint programs, county officials said.

Fact Box

How and where to recycle now?

With the Maui County winding down its household battery recycling, paint exchange and scrap metals program today, the county and nonprofit Malama Maui Nui, which handled some of the services, recommend:

* Wrapping household batteries in newspaper and disposing of them as part of normal rubbish disposal.

* Buying rechargeable batteries and/or solar-powered devices.

* Recycling batteries via a mail-back program.

* Properly solidifying or absorbing paint before disposing of it and placing it in multiple bags. It is recommended taking the bag to the landfill rather than throwing it residential garbage cans because it can get torn open in the back of the garbage truck.

* Buying only the amount of paint needed for each project.

* That Hammerhead Metals Recycling in the Central Maui Baseyard will accept scrap metal. For information on fees and guidelines, call 280-8844.

* That Reynolds Recycling at 380 Alamaha St. in Kahului accepts and pays for nonferrous metals. For rates and other information, call 385-1867.

* Residents continuing to deliver appliances, including refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning units, dishwashers, stoves, water heaters, washers and dryers, to Hammerhead Metals at no charge.

For more information on recycling, go to www.mauicounty.gov/recycle or call the recycling hotline at 270-7880.

The end of the battery and paint collection programs are due to costs increasing for the recycling of motor oil that went up $53,000, said Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone on Wednesday.

"Like the mayor said in (the) Ask the Mayor column, in order to deal with that increase, the Recycling Division had to make some tough decisions. If we could have eliminated used motor oil recycling we would have solved the problem but 1 gallon of (used motor oil) can contaminate a million gallons of water, so we had to keep that in there and let go of some other programs."

Antone said state funding for some recycling programs has dropped to zero for the upcoming fiscal year's Environmental and Sustainability Division programs, which exacerbates the problem.

He said funding from the state has dwindled over the years, from $90,000 for used motor oil last fiscal year to $9,000 for used motor oil in the current year. There is no money next fiscal year.

Stacia Ash, recycling coordinator with the county, said that the county grant used to fund recycling programs was approved by the Maui County Council. But since the cost of recycling used motor oil went up considerably, the funding no longer covered all of the recycling programs.

Ash also added that the paint and batteries programs come "at a high cost per ton."

The county estimated Wednesday that it recently cost around $4,180 per ton to recycle paint and household batteries. Ash said the batteries program diverts 6 to 8 tons per year.

Ash added that the Environmental Protection Agency says that household batteries and household paint are acceptable items to discard in the landfill if they are properly contained and handled prior to disposal.

In a news release, Malama Maui Nui said Wednesday that its programs have recycled more than 20 tons of batteries and have redistributed more than 13,000 gallons of reusable paint. This allowed for a "second life" for batteries that included recycled plastic, rebar and fertilizers and for paint, which was used for "do-it-yourself" projects such as renovating children's bedrooms, creating backdrops for school plays and waterproofing outdoor sheds. Paint collected was water-based, acrylic and latex.

Jen Cox, community relations specialist with Malama Maui Nui, which handles a variety of environmental programs, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that it could not continue the batteries recycling and paint exchange because the grant was not renewed.

"Because we currently have no alternate means of funding for these programs, we had to suspend them as of (today)," Cox said in an email.

"We remain extremely proud of what the Household Batteries recycling program and the Paint Exchange have accomplished through the support of the county and the collaboration of our partner collection sites," she added.

Maui County's Department of Environmental Management Solid Waste Division will discontinue collecting scrap metals at the Central Maui Landfill after today.

"Historically, the Central Maui Landfill has provided scrap metals collection to the community at no charge. However, due to a sharp decline in the global metals market, the vendor that previously operated the program is no longer able to perform these services at no cost to the county taxpayers," said Ash.

Antone added that the cost for scrap metals has gone down from $500 per ton to $200 per ton, making it less profitable. Currently, the department does not have any cost estimate if it were to start up the scrap metals recycling program again, Antone said.

But Ash said department officials are working on finding a budgetary solution to reinstate the program. Some private recyclers on Maui still will accept metals, she added.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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