Sierra Club to Honolulu Mayor: Don’t Waste Taxpayer Money on Subsidizing Metal Recycler

scrap cars
article top

scrap carsAloha Mayor Carlisle – The Executive Committee of the O‘ahu Group of the Sierra Club wishes to express our strong opposition to Bill 36 and we respectfully urge you to veto this proposed piece of legislation, which is so clearly detrimental to the health and financial wellbeing of the citizens of the City and County of Honolulu.

We reject the proposition that taxpayer money should be used in this time of economic distress -when urgent spending is being cut and taxes are being raised- in order to subsidize a single highly profitable company to continue to dump Automobile Shredder Residue (ASR) into the Waimanalo Gulch landfill.


We believe this poisonous material is likely to one-day leak from the landfill into the aquifer from which citizens on the Leeward coast draw their drinking water.  We note that a perfectly acceptable alternative disposal method is available that recycles virtually 100% of ASR for reuse.

We believe this bill is a piece of corporate welfare designed at the behest of a single company: Schnitzer Steel.  We find the testimony to the City Council by James Nutter, owner of Island Recycling – a small competitor of Schnitzer’s- to be most compelling:  “If this bill passes, my company will make $50,000.

But I’m in opposition of this bill because it’s morally, ethically wrong.”  Mr Nutter and other small recyclers directly refuted Schnitzer’s oft-repeated allegation that, without the subsidy, vehicles would no longer be recycled on O‘ahu.

We strenuously object to the environmental cause being hijacked as a means of padding Schnitzer profits at the public’s expense. And we object to the legislative process being hijacked by the highly paid lobbyists, who packed the Council meeting on June 3rd.  This is not legislation in the interest of the people, it’s legislation in the interest of the deepest pockets.

To spell out our opposition:

First: Automobile Shredder Residue (ASR) is toxic. The U.S. EPA reports that it contains lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, polyvinyl chloride, PCB’s and mercury.  For this reason it cannot be and is not accepted for incineration by the H-Power plant.  We note that the State of California considers ASR to be a hazardous material.  The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has proposed that ASR be transported under strict conditions to special hazardous waste disposal sites.  Many European countries ban the dumping of ASR into landfills.  With all due respect, we consider it a basic obligation of the City to ensure that only material that is truly inert be permitted to be dumped into the landfill.

Second: Requiring companies that profit from recycling of automobiles to take alternative measures to dispose of ASR would not be an economic hardship of such magnitude as to destroy the value proposition and profitability of the enterprise.  The Council heard, but chose to ignore, testimony that Schnitzer Steel Hawaii makes in excess of one million dollars in profits every month from this business.  The subsidy has cost O‘ahu taxpayers more than $19 million since it was instituted in 1998. Much of that money has subsidized the cost of dumping ASR from junked vehicles imported from the neighbor islands.

Why should Honolulu taxpayers subsidize neighbor island dumping costs?  We firmly believe that no company should receive help from taxpayers without proving need.  If Schnitzer will be financially hurt by losing the annual gift of some $1 million from the taxpayers of Honolulu that Bill 36 enshrines, let it be required to prove that hurt by opening its books.

Third: ASR is a recyclable resource.  In Europe some 400,000 tons of ASR are profitably recycled every year. VW-SiCon GmbH manufactures machines capable of recycling ASR for profit in a variety of sizes. Last year VW-SiCon broke ground on a facility in Michigan that will shortly open for business.  We recommend that Schnitzer Hawaii export its toxic waste to that facility, or open an ASR recycling facility of its own.  Schnitzer Steel Hawaii is part of a corporation with 57 operating facilities located in 14 states, Puerto Rico and Western Canada. It reported second quarter fiscal 2011 revenues of $722 million, an increase of 28% from the second quarter of fiscal year 2010.  Why on earth should Honolulu taxpayers fork out precious funds in corporate welfare to this behemoth to facilitate the dumping of poisonous waste?

Yours sincerely,

The Executive Committee of the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group: Willis Moore – Chair,  Randy Ching – Vice Chair,  Anthony Aalto – Secretary, Amy Brinker, Steve Montgomery, Linny Morris, Wayne Takamine – Members





Comments are closed.