Good news everyone! Well, by “good,” I mean “not horrible,” and by “everyone,” I mean Maui Meadows residents. Anyway, it turns out that Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa has decided that maybe his decision to ask 1,750 residents there (and in other parts of South Maui) who took part in the county’s “3-Can” curbside recycling test project to give up their beloved recycling bins may have been made in haste.
See, 25 or so residents visited Arakawa on the afternoon Wednesday, Feb. 4. They took with them a petition containing the signatures of 2,000 or so residents asking for the county not to end curbside recycling. They also told Arakawa that residents would be willing to pay an annual fee to keep the program in place.
How much of a fee residents would have to pay is a matter of controversy. County Environmental Management Director Kyle Ginoza told the Maui County Council that the program costs “approximately $80” per year per account. But an internal spreadsheet obtained by MauiTime pegs the cost at $43.91. County officials say the spreadsheet was merely a “draft” and “wasn’t complete;” Hana Steel, the recycling coordinator who helped create the spreadsheet is on paid administrative leave and wouldn’t comment about the spreadsheet (click here for our Jan. 15, 2015 story “Trash Talk” that included a discussion on the spreadsheet).
In any case, the curbside recycling program is still dead. That ended on Feb. 1. But the Arakawa Administration–which had warned that residents who didn’t surrender their bins could face fines or other sanctions–decided that they could keep their bins after all.
“The request from the community was not unreasonable,” said Arakawa in a Feb. 5 news release. “We explained to them that the cost of the program was not something the county could just absorb. Also, it isn’t fair that all taxpayers pay for a service that one community benefitted from. But if these residents are willing to pay for the actual costs of curbside recycling, I don’t see any reason why we can’t let them keep their cans while we get them some numbers.”
What happens next is unknown. The county’s going to run some numbers. They might do another “pilot” project in another town. They will even ask the Maui County Council what they want!
“We also have some time while our department goes over the data from the recycling pilot project,” said Managing Director Keith Regan in the news release. “Once we crunch that data we’ll be able to have a better idea of what our options are. We may be able to offer the pilot project participants the same service for a fee, or maybe we have to take this pilot project to another neighborhood such as Kahului, where we have a lot of extended families in one home, to see how curbside recycling works there. Or possibly we may propose a countywide curbside recycling service that we can present to council. There might even be a possibility of a private-public partnership with this. The main thing is we have the data and now we need to propose some options.”
Well, why didn’t the county just say so last month? Taking stock of the 3-Can project, assessing options and then letting the County Council have a say makes sense.
Instead, county environmental management officials just said they were ending the project because of its costs (and that a future, as yet unbuilt waste reclamation facility would do even better at keeping recyclables out of our dwindling landfills). That led to Maui Meadows residents–who genuinely want to do the right thing–openly discussing withholding their recycling bins as an act of civil disobedience.
While not a compete reversal, this new decision does recall Arakawa’s announcement back in March 2013 that the county would close its recycling centers because the “private sector” could pick up the slack. After residents protested, he announced that the centers would, in fact, stay open.
Photo: Michal Maňas/Wikimedia Commons