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Carlisle administration still aims to end white-bin recycling

The City Council inserted $2.4 million into the city’s $1.96 billion operating budget last week to restore and expand the city’s “white bin” community recycling program at Oahu schools, but that doesn’t mean Mayor Peter Carlisle will continue it.

A spokesman for the city Department of Environmental Services said the city is moving forward with plans to close out the program as scheduled on June 30. 

Markus Owens, public information officer for the Department of Environmental Services, said Director Tim Steinberger wants to sit down with city Recycling Coordinator Suzanne Jones, who was out of the office last week, and other members of the Refuse Division, on how to proceed in light of the Council’s action. 

The city could choose to extend the current contract, seek bids from vendors for a new contract or proceed with the original plan of ending the city’s involvement with white bins, Owens said. Or there may be other options, he said.

The Carlisle administration announced at the end of April that due to diminishing returns from an annual $1.5 million investment, it would end sponsorship of the program that allowed schools and other community groups to earn some money by letting the public drop their recyclable items in specially marked white bins, a program that has been around for more than 20 years. 

The administration said that with the growing number of households switching to curbside recycling service, habits are changing and much less is placed into the bins that once netted schools as much as $1,000 a month for the bottles, cans, newspaper, cardboard and other recyclable material. About 160,000 Oahu homes get curbside recycling service and the city plans to reach the remaining 20,000 single-family households beginning later this year.

The first of the bins are due to be removed Friday, but Honolulu Disposal Co., which has had the $1.5 million annual contract to provide 100 bins, had said it would continue to maintain about half the locations without paying the schools. The bins would stay in locations where the volume of recyclables justifies the cost of hauling the bins, sorting and baling the materials and shipping the loads off island.

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