Hawaii County to restrict some services at transfer stations

  • Denise Domino dumps glass into a recyclable receptacle at the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill on Tuesday.

Starting next week, Hawaii County transfer stations will have reduced functionality until the end of the month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county’s Department of Environmental Management announced Tuesday that collection of green waste, scrap metal and “white goods” will be discontinued at most county transfer stations until at least April 30, when Gov. David Ige’s COVID-19 lockdown is scheduled to end.

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Specifically, green waste collection is discontinued at transfer stations in Kealakehe, Ke‘ei, Pahoa, Keaau, Volcano and Waimea, leaving only the facilities in Hilo and Pu‘uanahulu.

Collection of scrap metal and white goods, or large appliances, is discontinued at all transfer stations that offer the service, including Hilo, Keaau, Pahoa, Volcano, Waiohinu, Pahala, Ke‘ei, Kealakehe, Puako, Waimea, Hawi, Honokaa and Laupahoehoe.

“We want to maintain our critical services, which is to allow residents the ability to get rid of their putrescibles — that food waste that starts to smell bad if you leave it too long,” said Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski. “We can’t allow a breakdown in that service.”

Kucharski added that the reduction of services also is to accommodate workers whose schedules have been disrupted by the closures of their children’s schools.

Kucharski said the majority of the department is still working full-time — at least 90 workers are still on the job full-time, he estimated. However, in order to maintain the health and safety of county workers, the department has to pare down its services to only those considered essential.

“The Department of Emergency Management is invisible; we’re only noticed when we’re not there, and everyone has their own perception of what is essential,” Kucharski said. “But for now, we don’t think dealing with green waste or appliances is not essential.”

For now, there are no changes to the county’s two-bin recycling program, Kucharski said. Nor has the county suspended any contracts with those who manage the state HI-5 beverage container redemption program at the transfer stations, although he said a contractor could decide to not staff a location at their discretion.

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Kucharski said the discontinued services will resume “as soon as there’s some level of normalcy again,” although that normalcy might not return until after April 30 because the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continue to rise.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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