Talking Trash

Allison Fraley has been into rubbish and recycling since her college days. Now as the county’s Solid Waste Program coordinator, the woman who brought Kauai blue recycling bins is instituting a policy that comes down to ‘the more you throw away, the more you pay’

Let’s talk trash. The county’s “Pay As You Throw” program goes into effect July 1. That means property owners will have to choose by Friday (May 15) between a 64-gallon trash cart that costs $10 per month and a 96-gallon cart that costs $18 per month.

In other words, the more you throw away, the more you have to pay.

“It really is the radical way to get people to reduce waste,” says Allison Fraley, Solid Waste Program coordinator for the county.

Kauai is the first county in the state to introduce such a program, which already has been successful in other states. The Aloha State is one of the last to jump on the bandwagon and benefit from this kind of project, which has been proven to decrease waste and increase recycling habits. On average, the amount of waste reduction during the first year of its implementation has been 14-17 percent, according to Environmental Protection Agency.

“People are not producing as much trash in the first place because they’re mindful about what they’re doing, and they’re just not throwing stuff away because it’s cheap and easy,” says Fraley. “They are thinking about it.”

Half of the island’s residents are on automated service now. The other half will join them July 1, the date Pay As You Throw begins. If you don’t have the size cart you want by Friday, you either keep the 96-gallon cart you already have (if you are in the half of the island already on auto refuse service) or, if not, you are issued one.

Once the program takes off, the financial incentive alone is expected to help divert some 5,000 tons of trash annually from Kekaha Landfill.

“I think this is going to make a difference,” says Fraley.

The landfill already is bursting at the seams, and this is one of many waste-diverting methods Fraley has implemented since becoming coordinator in 2000. She also has been a key component in launching battery and electronics’ recycling programs.

“That’s a huge one because that’s a really fast-growing waste stream,” she says, noting that electronics are used and discarded as rapidly as they evolve.

Twice a month, electronics are accepted from businesses and individuals at The Kauai Resource Center.

“It really works to get that stuff out of the landfill because it’s really toxic,” explains Fraley.

When she first started as the county’s inaugural recycling coordinator 15 years ago, Fraley’s was a solo operation. Since then, she’s built her own staff and several new programs, including recycling paper and plastic. She also added a home-composting program that provides free bins to customers, and uses the method herself, especially after cooking (one of her favorite hobbies).

“It’s so environmental,” she says.

She’s now in the process of helping set up a materials-recovery facility (MRF) on Kauai, where mixed recyclables can be sorted, ultimately allowing customers to start receiving curbside recycling services. When a pilot program for curb-side recycling launched several years ago in Lihue, it was a huge success and customers responded well. Each home received large blue bins, in which they could place all their recyclables for the county to pick up.

“We found that people loved this. People who were skeptical at first, when they got the carts, thought it was the greatest thing,” says Fraley. “They didn’t want us to take the carts away.”

But until a MRF is built, the program is not a viable option. Yet Fraley remains optimistic and is determined to get more people to think about how much impact they have on the environment. Her determination kicked in after she read a book (she can’t recall the title) in the late 1980s that discussed the amount of damage being done to the planet by humans.

Originally from California, Fraley earned a bachelor’s in psychology from University of California at Santa Cruz. She went on to receive her master’s in psychology from California State-Los Angeles, and as part of her research, she studied the psychology behind what influences recycling behavior.

“I really care about the environment, and I wanted to be able to do something,” says Fraley, whose husband Geoff Morris is an artist and works at Keoki’s Paradise. “I just felt like recycling was a way that I could apply myself and try to shape behavior for the better.”

She discovered three things that have the most impact on people’s enthusiasm to divert waste: economic incentives, convenience and legislation. All three factors are emphasized in “Pay As You Throw,” which is why Fraley is so excited about its upcoming launch.

“I’m really glad that there’s a law that will make people think, on a day-today basis, about how much trash they’re throwing away,” she says.

“What makes me happy is when people become aware that what they do has an impact on the environment, and if I can help people realize that and change and be more environmentally aware, that makes me happy.”

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