By Dina Noyes
If recycling began in any single place on Maui, it was most likely the old Makawao Dump on Makani Road. In the 1970s and ‘80s, there wasn’t any organized recycling on Maui, but there was the Makawao Dump.
It was a dumpster diver’s dream. There was no heavy equipment working the pile, just unwanted goods sitting out in the open, exposed to the rain, rust, sun and termites. Then there were the people scrambling over the pile, some dumping and some taking.
You could furnish an entire home from the Makawao Dump. Cars could be restored, houses repainted, windows embellished with stained glass. You could also find great old books, antiques, silverware, linens, pots, pans, ancient metal trunks, family pictures of people you never met, garden hoses worn by the sun, shovels, trowels, tables, chairs, fans, electrical wiring, copper, old boots, sneakers, working pens, tins of broken seashells, surfboards, ropes and even saddles. Well, it was Makawao, after all.
In 1977, EKO Compost began turning green waste into high quality soil, and they’re still at it. A year later, Maui Scrap Metal, (otherwise known as “Apanas”), opened a drop site for a few recyclables such as commercial metals, cardboard and paper, though they’ve been closed for years now.
By 1990, Maui Recycling Service opened, offering Maui its first and only residential curbside collection service. They borrowed a truck for the first two months, then purchased their own Ford F250 at a Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar auction.
By 1991, the County of Maui got into the act, hiring a recycling coordinator and implementing community drop boxes for recycling. Not long after Aloha Recycling opened for business and started taking glass and crushing it for use as “glasphalt”–a filler for asphalt. That’s about the time that Maui Recycling Service set up commercial services for several large hotels, and in 1997 they started offering food waste collections, though that portion of the business was sold a few years later.
By 2001, MRS was running their trucks on 100 percent biodiesel, and in 2003 they opened the Bio-Beetle Eco Rental Car Company with a few diesel Volkswagens. Today they rent Beetles, Jettas, a Jeep Liberty, two Prius hybrids, and a plug-in Nissan Leaf, all while continuing to run Maui Recycling Service.
It’s taken decades to get to this level, but I’m still surprised at how many people here don’t understand how the island’s distance from the Mainland factors into the cost of recycling. On the Mainland, a single stream recycling system is feasible because processing plants are within driving distance of each other. But here, Maui Recycling Service must ask customers to separate their recyclables because the labor involved in preparing the items for the processor–in this case, Aloha Recycling–would be prohibitive.
The differences among the glass, plastic, tin, steel, aluminum, electronics, various types of paper, (newspaper, junk mail and glossy), cardboard, batteries, phone books and cell phones make an enormous financial dent in any business when shipping them off-island so that they can be recycled and turned into similar products (like aluminum cans) or completely new products like plastics.
With just seven employees at MRS (disclosure: I’m one of them), separating all the varieties of recyclables would not allow any time to drive around the island collecting them in the first place. The information provided by the county, individual companies and those in the recycling field should be a priority for anyone who thinks reusing our trash can help make a better community.