KAILUA-KONA — Recent changes to the county’s two-bin recycling program have left customers of private recycling companies confused over the disposal of their HI-5 glass, plastic and aluminum containers.
Barbie Seto, cashier manager at Atlas Recycling Centers, said she is fielding calls daily from customers wanting to know if the company is still operating and accepting HI-5 recyclables.
“HI-5 is not affected, we are still in business, and everything is good to go,” Seto said. “It’s just the two-step recycling program that was affected.”
On Oct. 16, the county’s two-bin recycling program downsized and began accepting only corrugated cardboard, brown paper bags, and glass bottles and jars.
Before that date, the two-bin recycling program included a bin for recycling of paper, plastic, cardboard, aluminum and tin, and a bin for non-HI-5 glass.
“That day, it was like the world was going to end,” Seto said. “People were freaking out about it. It was huge.”
The change and following confusion resulted in Atlas Recycling placing a statement on the font page of their website stating: “There are no changes to HI-5 plastic bottle recycling. The recycling changes that are occurring at the County of Hawaii transfer stations have nothing to do with our private recycling company. We are still paying for HI-5 plastic beverage containers.”
Atlas Recycling has locations on the west side of the Big Island at the Keauhou Transfer Station, the Kealakehe Transfer Station, the Waimea Transfer Station, and in Kailua-Kona at 74-5600 Alapa Street and 74-592 Hale Makai Place as well as at 64-1004 Mamalahoa Highway in Waimea.
Other locations on the island include the Volcano Transfer Station, the Ocean View Transfer Station, the Waiohinu Transfer Station and the Keaau Transfer Station.
Willi Allen, owner of Atlas Recycling, said every location has been receiving calls from customers all day, every day, since the county’s changes wanting to know if Atlas Recycling will still take HI-5 containers.
“What we’re doing has never changed,” Allen said. “We’re still taking the HI-5s.”
Seto said many of the calls she is receiving are from people who are at one of the transfer stations and are confusing the county’s two-step recycling bins with the bins of private companies such as Atlas Recycling.
She said the confusion has caused Atlas Recycling’s number of customers to decline.
“Normally, I would be handling at least 110 customers a day,” Seto said. “Now, it’s been around the numbers of 55 to about 78.”
Atlas Recycling accepts aluminum cans, small plastic under 17 ounces, mixed plastic over 17 ounces, glass and bimetal cans are all accepted by Atlas Recycling as long as they are empty, have the caps removed and have a HI-5 label.
Allen Meno, who works at the Alapa Street center, said people are also bringing non HI-5 plastics to them, which they are refusing.
The company also accepts scrap metals such as copper, aluminum, brass, stainless steel and lead.
Seto said she’s worried people are now throwing away HI-5 products instead of recycling them, which would mean more trash ending up in landfills.
“You can still recycle your glass, plastic and cans,” Seto said. “We’re still going and we’re still up and running.”
More information on the county’s two-bin recycling program, including a list of local recycling companies, can be found at hawaiizerowaste.org/recycle/2-bin/.
West Hawaii Today reporter Laura Ruminski contributed to this report.