Junk Cars Are Piling Up On Oahu

On a recent Saturday morning, state Rep. Andria Tupola and her staff cleared 12 abandoned cars, hauling them away on a flatbed truck, from Kaukamana Road near Maili Elementary School. 

Many more abandoned cars were spread along the Westside back road. Most were burned out and stripped. Vines crawled into the interiors through broken windows. Open hoods revealed tall grass growing where engines and parts with any value had been excavated. Tires littered the ground nearby.

After her cleanup, Tupola counted at least 25 more cars littering three nearby roads.  

“I was glad that I took the few that I did, but I looked down the road and I was like, ‘Holy smokes, how do we do this?’” she said.

Abandoned cars like this one in Waianae are quickly stripped of valuable parts, leaving metal, broken glass and wires behind on the side of the road.

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Tupola said she’s cleaned cars and bulky trash from Kaukamana twice and from nearby Paakea Road 12 times in the past three years, but the problem is only getting worse.

In the past seven months, a glut of old cars has filled lots and littered roadsides in both rural and urban areas, prompting state and city lawmakers to search for answers.

Several factors are at play. 

Scrap yards once abundant in Kalihi and other industrial areas are closing their doors, and some of those still open now charge to take junked cars with no salvageable parts. The city and some charitable organizations offer free car junking services. But junking a car legally requires a title, which, if lost, can be expensive to replace.

The plummeting price of scrap metal means there’s little gain from shredding car parts.

Before the Great Recession, even a useless car could be sold for $100 at Island Recycling, one of two companies on Oahu that shreds old cars into scrap metal for export, according to company owner Jim Nutter. Today, his company pays about $20 per car, sometimes less than it costs to tow the…

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