The waste left over from auto recycling deserves a closer look - Honolulu Environmental News



Automobiles in Hawaii are either recycled here or crushed and shipped to offshore recyclers. Hawaii's cars, like those elsewhere, contain valuable scrap metal and approximately 75% of the automobile by weight is salvaged and sold as scrap metal. The remaining 25%, which is called auto shredder residue (ASR) or "fluff" is discarded in the landfill.

So, what's in "fluff?" It's materials like plastic, glass, upholstery, foam and rubber. It also may contain several potentially toxic ingredients like mercury (from switches), cadmium, lead, chromium, arsenic, polyvinyl chloride, PCBs and fluids. These are all potentially hazardous materials that, over time, could leach into the groundwater or work their way to the ocean.



The material is periodically tested with a standard established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the Toxic Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP). But, of the hundreds of hazardous chemicals in use, TCLP only looks for 43. Also, it has been questioned just how vigorously even this test is applied and how much toxic material bypasses any testing.

To add insult scrap car Luton to injury, The City and County of Honolulu provides an 80% discount for recyclers to dump ASR into Oahu's landfill. A bill (Bill 47) currently before the City Council would eliminate this discount which provides large recyclers, like Schnitzer Steel with approximately $2 million in extra profit per year and seems to encourage less-than-efficient processing of the ASR. Inexplicably, the Council is also considering two new bills (36 & 37) that would restore new, albeit lower, discounts for dumping ASR.

The City Council needs to look closely at the actual materials contained in ASR before they consider any incentives for putting more of it into our landfill. They would also be wise to demand that profitable private companies actually prove they need any government "assistance," by disclosing financial information on local operations, before handing over taxpayer's money.

While everyone agrees that recycling is a good idea, our city leaders need to be more diligent in their use of tax dollars, and more aggressive in alternatives to disposal of material in our landfill that could be handed in other more environmentally friendly ways.

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