WEST MAUI - With two drop-box locations recently closed, recycling on the West Side is neither convenient nor efficient.
Residents living in Napili and points north have to drive a minimum of 13 miles to Olowalu to recycle, mostly using fossil fuels and adding to the already overburdened Honoapiilani Highway through Lahaina.
To aggravate the situation, the HI-5 Redemption Center on the West Side is in a different location.
Maui Disposal is the former operator of the recycling and redemption site in Napili.
Its general manager, Roger Yamagata, explained what transpired.
"Up until about three or four months ago, we were located in the back of Maui Land and Pine (Maui Land & Pineapple Co Inc.). They sold that property (for a condominium development), and we relocated to the adjacent parking lot of the administration building next door.
"Then we were notified by the (state) Department of Health and the county that that site was zoned agriculture, and the zoning uses for agriculture did not list recycling.
"We could not get our permits to operate a recycling center on ag land. It would have taken us many months and maybe a year to get it rezoned, and there was no guarantee that it would be allowed or approved," he continued.
"We were sad to have closed. Not only did employees lose their jobs, but a lot of the residents were our friends already. It was really not a big profit center for us, but we did want to try increase recycling on the West Side," Yamagata commented.
Maui Disposal also operated the site in Lahaina by the old Pioneer Mill Smokestack; it closed because it was not economically feasible.
"Unfortunately, there was not enough use; and, because we had to haul those boxes to our recycle facility in Kahului and also pay rent for the property, we could not maintain it. We were losing substantial money each month," Yamagata said.
The Olowalu Recycling & Refuse Convenience Center located three miles south of Lahaina is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., according to the County of Maui Recycling Guide, Winter 2014.
"We operate it for the county. That's a county site. The residents are free to drop off their recyclables there," Yamagata said.
West Maui County Councilwoman Elle Cochran, chair of the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee, is frustrated by the loss of recycling opportunities for her constituents.
According to Yamagata, Cochran "has been trying to have the county take over the recycling site by the smokestack on Lahainaluna Road."
"The entire West Maui community is currently only able to recycle at the Olowalu location," she observed. "This is quite a drive for most and is totally unacceptable. My fear is that the incentive and the motivation to recycle will dissipate if the convenience is lacking."
Funding in the budget in the amount of $25,000 was allocated to require the Mayor Alan Arakawa administration to keep the Lahaina recycling drop-box site open, Cochran said.
"The provision of $25,000 covers the hauling and processing costs to run that facility for the fiscal year The additional funding to keep the Lahaina location operational passed with full support from my fellow council members, as well as two additional recycling provisions that were inserted at first reading, for added protection to continued recycling services."
The Fiscal Year 2015 budget bills passed second and final reading at the council on June 6, 2014.
"The mayor vetoed my three recycling provisions and several others. The council overrode all of the mayor's vetoes," Cochran commented.
"The Department of Environmental Management, under the mayor," Cochran informed the Lahaina News, "needs to release the money to the contractors, so that they can reopen the recycling operations at the Lahaina location."
Yamagata agreed. "We found that when you put the centers closer to where people live, the rate of recycling goes up," he said.
Tamara Paltin resides in Napili and is running for mayor. She questioned the breakdown of the goals and objectives of the Maui Island Plan, adopted in December 2012, specifically with regard to solid waste management: "To identify and develop a recycling/redemption facility in West Maui."
"Recycling in West Maui has taken two huge steps backwards," she added. "This will affect our landfill and end up costing taxpayers in the long run."
"There is a cost to recycling," Yamagata said. "But it is worth it. We're saving trees. We saving the environment. There is more dirt. More tons (of trash) are not being buried; and that's why we're trying to champion the county and the administration to increase the curbside recycle program.
"At your house, wouldn't it be easy if you have a blue plastic bin, and you can throw all your recyclables in there and wouldn't have to drive one minute?" he questioned.
The county initiated a successful pilot curbside 3-Can Plan in South Maui in 2012.
"The project now is only Maui Meadows and part of South Kihei. They service less than 2,000 homes when the whole island is a total of 25,000 homes," Yamagata said.
"We would encourage everybody to try have the curbside recycling program increased; then there would probably be no need for the Lahaina or Napili drop-off sites, because people would have the ability to just throw it in their plastic tote in their garage."
In the meantime, Cochran has been working closely with Maui Disposal to "find a solution for this tremendous loss to the West Maui community."
"We are not giving up," Yamagata concluded.