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Collecting Molokai’s Metals


Photo by Jessica Ahles

As your car deteriorates on Molokai’s rugged roads, and outdated appliances are replaced with newer models, you may find an assembly of rusted-out materials decorating your yard. But if you find yourself going mad over your metal collection, there is now a group you can call to gather your junk cars, appliances and mixed metals.

Refrigerant Recycling Inc. (RRI) is here to serve Molokai for the next three years. The Oahu-based recycling and refurbishing company is working hand-in-hand with Maui County, dedicated to help make metal disposal less of a headache for the community.

“We’re holding a community workday to go around helping rural parts of the island and to assist people who need help with recycling their items,” said Molokai-born RRI project manager Mike Diorec.

With the help of Molokai-Naiwa Landfill personnel and Maui-based nonprofit Community Work Day Program volunteers, RRI kick-started a series of “Metal Round-Up” events last weekend. The round-ups are a county-funded project traveling across the island to pick up metal materials in rural areas at no cost to the public.

Last Thursday through Saturday, RRI set up drop-off locations in Halawa Valley, Maurice Point and Waialua to provide convenient access to locals and respond to house calls requesting assistance with material pick-up.

“From here, some people don’t have the means to travel the distance to the landfill, especially with the current gas prices,” said Alan Domingo, RRI working foreman. “So when we have these events every three or four months, I think it could be a big help to them.”

Over three days, Domingo and fellow workers collected old appliances, tires, car batteries, propane tanks and scrap metal, filling three, 30-yard containers to the brim. Some residents made multiple drop-offs in one day, depositing years’ worth of lawn mowers, engines, and miscellaneous parts.

“It’s a good service and something good for the island,” said Chuck Miguel, a retired construction worker, utilizing RRI’s pick-up service to get rid of some of his scrap metals in Waialua Saturday morning. “But if you clean it, keep it clean.”

The event will continue moving towards the west end in the coming weeks. While they aren’t collecting larger items at this event such as vehicles and furniture, you may call 351-3504 to schedule a pick-up for a fee based on the size of the item.

Read future Dispatch calendar events to find a drop-off location near you.

Metals Facility Back in Business
While the series of metal pick-up events provides a more convenient way to recycle metals, Diorec said he understands several annual pick-up events is not enough to keep the island clean.

In 2009, the Molokai Metals Recycling Facility, located at the Molokai-Naiwa Landfill, closed after reaching capacity, according to the county’s Abandoned Vehicles and Metals Administrator at the time, Patience Gaia. After the metals recycling program slowed and was no longer cost-effective, the county “resorted to a collection event” in 2010, said Gaia in a 2011 interview.

With nowhere to dispose of unwanted materials, frustrations arose when the community had to wait for one of the collection events to open each year to haul their metal rubbish to the landfill.

“Being a resident on Molokai, I felt a lot of the pain the community was going through,” said Diorec. “That was one of the first things I told the county–we can’t do it on just the collection events.”

All of that changed as of last year, when the county Department of Environmental Services Solid Waste Division and RRI agreed on a three-year contract to provide an on-going metals recycling program for the Molokai community.

In August 2013, the Molokai Metals Recycling Facility opened full-time under the supervision of several Refrigerant Recycling crewmembers. Following the regular hours of the landfill, the metals facility is open for drop-offs Tuesday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The reopened facility has already been well-used. According to Dioec, his crew collected approximately 1,000 tons of materials from September through December alone.

“For a small, rural community, that’s a lot of tonnage,” said Diorec.  “It shows that people are sitting on these material for ages and an ongoing, collective program is a needed service, especially on Molokai.”

Moving Materials
Diorec said metal materials travel near and far and go through various breakdown processes before ending in their final destinations.

Recycled AC and refrigerator units contain hazardous fuels that needs to be recycled to one area in the mainland, said Diorec. Vehicle gas, tires and solvents move to Honolulu, and batteries are sent to business partners on Maui, where they are reused, recycled or incinerated.

After all hazardous fluids are removed from a vehicle, they are crushed into 4-foot-by-8-foot bails and transported to Oahu, where they’re shredded and shipped to processing plants in China, Korea, Turkey or other major metal industrial countries.

In the future, Diorec said Refridgerant Recycling Inc. pictures giving back to the community with some of the funds acquired from their recycled metals, putting a larger focus on cleaning up homestead land, and perhaps receiving an additional three years through the county after the current contract ends in 2016.

“That way, we can help get your land clean and educate of our younger generations on the importance of recycling,” said Diorec.


2 Responses to “Collecting Molokai’s Metals”

  1. nancydavis says:

    I took this picture last April. It is north of Kephui Beach on top of the bluff. We wondered how it got there!
    Nancy Davis

  2. D.J. Krol says:

    Can they _please_ start with those two abandoned vehicles left by the road to Anakala’s place in Halawa? I get so embarrassed for those families every time I have to walk by them. We need to respect our aunties and uncles, heck if they need some financial assistance, I’ll give them some money to get those junkers out of Halawa!

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