WAILUKU - Maui County would test curbside recycling in a pilot program officials hope to run in Maui Meadows for one year.
The administration of Mayor Alan Arakawa is seeking a budget amendment of $440,000 to run the trial. If it's successful, the program could be expanded to other communities on Maui, said Mike Miyamoto, deputy director of the Department of Environmental Management.
The proposal was part of a larger waste management plan that is intended to increase the amount of materials diverted from the Central Maui Landfill, he said.
"First we created all these recycling centers, and now we're looking to take it the next step," Mi-yamoto said.
The administration requested the funding in its annual budget earlier this year but was turned back by County Council members who asked department staff to work out any contract issues with Solid Waste Division employees before moving ahead with the program.
The department followed up on that request, Miyamoto said.
"We have been in discussions with the union, and we are confident we can reach an agreement," he said.
The pilot program would reach around 2,000 households in Maui Meadows and South Maui, Miyamoto said.
Under the program, homes would receive weekly recycling pickups, alternating between green waste and mixed recyclables like paper, cans and bottles every other week. The homes also would continue to receive regular trash collection once a week.
The mixed items would be taken to a processor where they would be sorted, Miyamoto said.
The same truck would be used for both trash collection and recyclables, but the county would need to purchase separate refuse carts for residents to use for the recycling items and green waste, he said.
If funding were approved, the program could start by May, he said.
Maui Meadows was chosen for the pilot project in part because it included a mix of rural homes that would produce more green waste and urban neighborhoods that would contribute more of the plastic, glass and aluminum waste items, Miyamoto said.
The county is particularly interested in testing whether it can divert more green waste from the rapidly filling landfill, he said.
"The green waste takes up a lot of space, and there's also a viable use for it" in compost, he said.
Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Joe Pontanilla said he was open to the funding request, but he would wait to schedule a hearing on the proposal until he got confirmation that the project was ready to go.
"I'm supportive, but I need to follow up," he said. "They needed to talk to the union first, and I'm not too clear on what has been agreed to."
Environmentalists and South Maui residents welcomed the proposal.
"I'm glad to hear about this," said Maui Tomorrow Executive Director Irene Bowie. "We certainly encourage it. I think the benefits of recycling over disposal are really significant. We would certainly support a project like that, and we would also remind people that 'reduce' and 'reuse' come before 'recycling.' "
Mike Moran of the Kihei Community Association said he believed curbside service would help people with "good intentions" follow through on recycling.
"We kind of feel that people, by human nature, if they have to take it and bring it to a facility, they will quite often not do it," he said.
"We would certainly be in favor of it (the pilot program)," Moran said. "We believe recycling is a good thing."
Fellow association member Lis Richardson said her neighborhood noticed a dramatic increase in recycling when her homeowners association decided to pay for curbside service.
"It has gone fantastically," she said. "My goodness, our (household) rubbish has gone down from a regular full-size garbage can to a small kitchen bag. It's really remarkable. You don't realize how much you really do waste."
Richardson, who lives in Kilohana Ridge, said she had always made an effort to recycle, but "when you have it curbside, you tend to put out everything."
She said she would "wholeheartedly" support wider curbside service in the county and wished the county also had more capability to process recyclables, instead of shipping them to off-island facilities.
"On an island of all places we really should be considering recycling on a grand scale," she said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at email@example.com.