Intensify recycling, Mainland expert says

Kaua‘i County can develop innovative recycling and composting programs in the future by focusing on programs today, thereby paving the way for the preservation of the Kekaha Landfill, a national authority on recycling told the County Council yesterday.

“I think you should focus on what you already have and make it better,” Eric Lombardi, executive director of Eco-Cycle of Boulder, Colo., said of the county’s waste recovery center, drop-off centers for paper and plastics and a county composting program.

At a council committee meeting at the historic County Building, Lombardi predicted recyclers will come up with new ideas when the county makes it easier for them to get to recycling centers.

At the request of Councilman Mel Rapozo, Lombardi attended the meeting to offer information on how Kaua‘i could become a “zero-waste community” where more recycled goods can be diverted from the landfill to create new jobs and industries and to protect the environment.

Thirty years ago, Eco-Cycle was among the first curbside recycling companies in the nation.

Today it collects tons of recycled goods that are sold to a worldwide market.

In attempting to intensity its recycling efforts, the county could put containers for trash, recycled goods and compost in front of homes and businesses, Lombardi said.

County garbage disposal trucks could come back on different days to pick up the items, he said.

While the county may have to add or change the truck routes or hire additional employees at a marginal cost, no purchase of new trucks is needed, Lombardi said.

In response to questions from Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, a strong advocate for recycling, Lombardi said the day may come when the county will reward recyclers and send monthly bills to non-recyclers.

But Lombardi warned monthly billing systems have failed in some Mainland communities due to opposition.

Kaua‘i County might be able to get around that hurdle by making recycling more convenient.

“If you offer something back such as convenient recycling, the people who are going to be mad at you are going to be in the vast minority,” he said.

At the moment, all Kaua‘i households are assessed the same amount through yearly property taxes whether they produce one can of garbage or several cans.

To concerns by Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho about illegal dumping on Kaua‘i, Lombardi said it has not manifested itself in Mainland communities striving to be zero-waste communities because most people are law-abiding.

Lombardi indicated Kaua‘i County is at a crossroads, as it can continue to dispose of garbage at increased costs to it or tap into huge commercial recycling markets in China and India.

National sales revenues are up partly because of the great need for such goods by the two countries, which are attempting to become world economic powers, Lombardi said, reiterating comments a speaker made at a conference on recycling at the Kaua‘i Community College this past weekend.

“They are using everything we can put on the marketplace,” Lombardi said. “They are like a giant vacuum cleaner sucking up recyclables, not only out of the Mainland, but out of Europe.”

The two countries, he said, “are feeding on the discards of Europe and American right now.”

China has cut down most of its high-grade trees and covets high-quality, recycled American paper, Lombardi said.

And Kaua‘i can be at the forefront of that buying binge because it is closer to the China and India than any other Mainland market, Lombardi said.

The move for municipalities like Kaua‘i County to become zero-waste communities is at hand, as recycling-sorting technology has advanced tremendously in 10 years, he said.

He also said sales revenues for the goods are up, thanks in part to hungry markets in China and India.

Lombardi also said zero-waste communities boast a metal recovery facility; a center to process things like Styrofoam, plastic bags, computers and televisions; a facility for organic materials; a facility to collect construction material; and a facility to house material from demolition work and a landfill.

California has used successful recycling methods that have produced a 50-percent diversion rate, as mandated by law, he said.

About 240 tons are generated on Kaua‘i daily, although portions of it are diverted from the landfill through recycling, county officials have said.

Through approvals by the state Department of Health, a vertical expansion has extended the life of the landfill by five years.

To contact Lombardi on zero-waste communities, e-mail eric@ecocyle.org.

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