Waste technology options explored

LIHU’E — The updated Kaua’i County’s solid waste management plan should employ technology that will be financially feasible for the county to implement and should benefit residents and businesses until 2020, a county consultant told residents Thursday night.

Karen Luken, a senior director for R.W. Beck, said she is not looking to validate any one technology over another as a way to manage the island’s garbage stream in years to come, and welcomes input from residents to identify options.

One chief goal is to have a system that will produce no debris, and such a scenario could happen in “the longterm,” Luken said.

She made those comments at a meeting county officials held at the Kaua’i War Memorial Convention Hall to gather comments and recommendations from residents on how to dispose of and manage the island’s growing volume of trash, due in part to more population growth.

About 240 tons of garbage are generated daily on Kaua’i, although portions of it are diverted from the Kekaha Landfill through recycling programs.

County officials said the study will show the different types of technologies that could be employed for trash disposal.

Officials are giving preference to waste-to-energy technologies because such waste disposal systems have proven effective in Mainland communities.

But Kaua’i County Council-woman JoAnn Yukimura said county leaders should keep an open mind and study the benefits of other technologies as well before selecting a waste disposal system.

Troy Tanigawa, the county’s waste specialist, said a draft plan should become available in six months. From the recommendations made in the study by the consultants, the county will select an integrated waste disposal system, said Tanigawa, who attended the meeting.

Any updated plan should promote technologies that will work efficiently and continuously over the years, Luken said. “We don’t want to be flip-flopping back and forth as to what is in the system,” she said.

The current integrated solid waste management plan of the county, implemented in 1994, uses valuable waste disposal programs, including composting and public education, Luken said.

The new plan should be a continuation of what has worked, and should include programs that employ the latest technologies, she said. “We don’t need to start from scratch,” Luken said.

She said an ideal system should include recycling, composting, collection and disposal of waste.

The new system also should include recycling the newest type of garbage finding its way into American’s waste stream, namely electronic equipment, she said.

Luken said one goal of the plan is to optimize the public’s use of waste and transfer stations, possibly through better public education programs.

What impressed Luken was that the Kekaha Landfill is open seven days a week. Elsewhere in the nation, some landfills open 5-and-a-half days at most, she said.

Luken and some audience members praised Allison Fraley, the county’s recycling coordinator, for promoting recycling and getting the word out to residents.

Chuck Trembath of Lihu’e said, however, it was his impression public education programs to encourage recycling need major tweaking.

If folks aren’t educated on the importance of recycling, they won’t participate in recycling programs, opening the way for landfills to fill up faster and artificially creating the need to open new ones, Trembath told Luken.

Arnold Leong, a former deputy engineer with Kaua’i County, said the updated plan, whatever form it takes, will only work if it is enforced by law. “If the plan is to work, you need to get it down in the form of law,” Leong said.

Leong said when he worked as an executive with Browning-Ferris Industries, a contract the company had with Kaua’i County called for public education on waste disposal and putting cards in hotel rooms on Kaua’i to inform visitors about the importance of recycling, Leong said.

Those strategies remained in place as long as BFI had the contract, he said. But the practices were terminated when another company won the contract, Leong said.

“Politics took over and canceled all of that,” he said. For the new integrated solid waste management plan to work, politics “has to be taken out of the picture,” he said after the meeting.

In developing the new plan, Luke noted R.W. Beck has the experience to develop one that will meet the garbage disposal needs of Kaua’i County, as it employs engineers, economists an specialists in recycling and marketing and development, Luken said.

The Mainland-based company provides services in management and technical consulting, financial analysis, marketing, risk management, owner’s engineering, planning, design and litigation support relating to energy, water resources, solid waste and telecommunications, according to the company’s Web site.

Luken said she believes the development of the plan will be smooth because of Kauaians.

Small numbers of folks showed up at two other meetings the county sponsored earlier this week at the Hanapepe Armory and the Kilauea Neighborhood Center, she said.

Even so, the residents seemed to have a deep grasp of the solid waste problems and are committed to resolving them. A little more than 30 folks showed up at the meeting in Lihu’e.

During the Lihu’e meeting, residents like Tom Shigemoto, an executive with Alexander and Baldwin, said he regularly brings his green waste to the Lihu’e transfer station because he lives in Lihu’e.

But people won’t do the same if transfer stations are located far away from them, Shigemoto said.

But recycling seems to work better on Kaua’i than in most other places because residents want to protect the island’s natural resources and “really love the land,” according to Wendy Raebeck, a resident of Wailua Houselots.

“I have lived in places where people didn’t care,” she said.

Faith Harding of O’mao said she believes more junk has not been dumped at the Kekaha Landfill because of thrift store outlets operated by the Salvation Army and the Kauai Humane Society. People bring their goods to the outlets, which sell them at discounted prices.

Harding added that Fraley has been “doing a fabulous” job in urging people to join the county’s composting program. She also said radio personality Ron Wiley also has helped keep more waste out of the landfill trough his KQNG “Trade Radio” show. Folks sell their goods at low prices on the radio show. Audience members said they also found the roadside residential pickup program to be effective.

Also attending the Lihu’e meeting were Mike Furukawa, a vice president of Grove Farm Company and Randy Hee, an official with the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative.

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