Testifiers at public hearing urge recycling

  • The Keauhou Transfer Station is closed in 2019. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)

  • Rubbish is dumped at the Kealakehe Transfer Station. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)

  • Sonny Westbrook dumps his trash at the Kealakehe Transfer Station. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)

The Solid Waste Advisory Committee, convened every 10 years, took the 10,000-foot view of the island’s trash issues. But many of the two dozen or so people attending a public hearing in Hilo Tuesday evening had very specific concerns.

The plan includes 82 recommendations covering nine solid waste management programs. The top six in the draft report:

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• Conduct education, outreach, and public awareness campaigns

• Regularly review and, when appropriate, renegotiate the West Hawaii Sanitary Landfill contract

• Conduct additional household hazardous waste collection events

• Change county code to allow small businesses to drop off recyclables at recycling and transfer stations

• Establish goals that are expressed and measured in terms of environmental impacts (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, toxicity, energy use) and consider full life cycle impacts, in addition to tonnage-based landfill diversion or waste recovery goals

• Develop county policy and ordinances related to source reduction and recycling

Better communication with the public was stressed by many testifiers.

“The key approach to landfill reduction is public education,” said Melody Euaparadorn of Zero Waste Big Island. “An educated and engaged public can become part of a solution to manage our waste management program.”

The Sierra Club, Hawaii Island Group, brought its own list to the meeting: a disposal fee on all products at the point of purchase, an environmental impact fee on tourists, negotiations for an end date with Waste Management Inc., which operates the West Hawaii landfill, more repair services to keep damaged and worn goods out of the landfill, build small local composting facilities instead of one large central facility.

“Many of the recommendations were excellent,” said Cory Harden, speaking on behalf of the environmental group.

Kristine Kubat, of Recycle Hawaii, was more blunt. She asked the committee to commit to doing a fresh waste composition analysis for the next report.

“We are very disappointed that this plan used waste composition studies from 2001 and 2008,” Kubat said. “If you’re really focused on zero waste, which we are, you’ll find the 2008 composition study virtually useless.”

Unlike prior commissions’ recommendations, a bag-tag pay-per-throw plan drew very little support by the committee, ending below many other recommendations. The concept of having those who toss the trash pay for the privilege has generally been met with opposition and fears that it would increase illegal dumping around the island.

The committee recommends the county continue using taxpayer dollars to support solid waste programs, rather than expect the programs to be able to pay for themselves in the short-term.

The next public hearing is set for 5 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

Written testimony from the public will be accepted through Feb. 4. Testimony should include your name and contact information and can be submitted by email to: ISWMP@hawaiicounty.gov or by U.S. Mail to Department of Environmental Management ATTN: ISWMP 345 Kekuanaoa St., Suite 41 Hilo, HI 96720.

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The full report can be found at https://bit.ly/2Geqeu6.

“Your testimony is critical to finalizing this plan,” said recycling coordinator George Hayducsko.

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