Phone books, some papers and plastics no longer recyclable

Changes announced after China revised the list of items it is willing to accept

Phone books and some types of paper and plastics will no longer be recycled at the four Maui County redemption centers due to changes in the acceptance of recyclables by China, where most of the material from Hawaii and the nation goes, the county Department of Environmental Management announced Friday.

There also are changes at the Central Maui Landfill for commercial haulers of green waste and with the disposal of old propane tanks.

As of Jan. 1, residents were no longer able to recycle office paper, junk mail, magazines and phone books at redemption centers in Kihei, Makawao, Haiku and Kahului as well as at Aloha Recycling.

There also were limits placed on the recycling of plastics. Only No. 1 and No. 2 plastics with necks that have been rinsed and cleaned will be recycled, the department said. Other No. 1 and No. 2 plastics will be discarded, such as snap-closed tubs that hold fruits and vegetables.

The plastics also must be cleaned of food, soap and oily residue to be recycled.

At the Central Maui Landfill, Maui EKO Systems, with the support of the Central Maui Landfill, will be monitoring green-waste haulers to ensure that commercial green-waste haulers are weighed at the landfill scale house and assessed applicable fees, the department said.

Maui EKO, which runs the green-waste disposal/composting operation at the landfill, currently is monitoring incoming vehicles to determine whether they are residential or commercial haulers. As part of its contract with the county, Maui EKO may designate a vehicle as “commercial” based on a vehicle’s license plates, advertising or signage or by frequency of use and/or the type of materials hauled.

Maui EKO will monitor facility users and suspected commercial users will be investigated, the department said. Users determined to be commercial will be required to set up an account and to weigh all loads at the scale house.

Maui EKO may deny entry to any customer who does not follow the rules, the department said.

The Kahului Airgas Store will no longer accept used propane tanks for recycling, and the county currently is researching local alternatives, the department said.

Hammerhead Metals accepts propane tanks with valves removed for recycling; contact them for fees and policies at 280-8844.

Propane tanks are accepted for recycling as part of the County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events, which occur annually. The last event was held in October, and the date of the next collection event has not yet been scheduled.

On the paper and plastics recycling changes, the county explained that China has implemented new policies for the acceptance of recyclable materials worldwide. Most of the plastics, paper and cardboard from Hawaii and the U.S. are shipped to markets in China.

Less material currently is being accepted due to China’s “Green Fence” policy to address contamination levels and “National Sword” initiative, which sets standards on the types, quantity and quality of materials that are allowed to be shipped into the country.

These policies set limits on the imports of certain types of plastics, paper and other recyclables and are intended to limit contamination to improve the quality of the materials received and to ultimately protect China’s environment, the county said.

Council Member Elle Cochran, chairwoman of the council Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee, said Friday that “it’s tragic to learn that the United States relies so heavily on  another country to handle our recycle waste management.”

“It’s time to start working towards being self-sufficient and responsible about our own recycling and waste management and to take responsibility as consumers for managing our own use of these materials; to be mindful about using less and reusing more now that we know we have no way, for the time-being, to recycle things like paper, most plastics.”

For more information about recycling, visit the Maui County Recycling website at or call the Maui County Recycling Hotline at 270-7880.