County facing closing landfill, decreased recycling options

To extend the five-year life of the Kekaha Landfill, Kaua‘i County should spend more money, time and effort on a beefed-up recycling facility that will promote aggressive recycling and reuse of materials, is one solution that was tossed around at a mid-week solid waste workshop.

Far less emphasis placed on a proposed $40-million-plus waste-to-energy project that could pose a huge financial burden on the county was another.

Kaua‘i County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura offered those assessments during a workshop on a draft integrated solid waste management plan Seattle-based consultant R.W. Beck offered at the Lihu‘e Civic Center Thursday.

Yukimura said building a metals recovery facility is the key to expanded and successful recycling on Kaua‘i.

“The (metals recovery facility) is the link between the collection system and the marketing system,” Yukimura said after the meeting.

Recyclable goods can be sorted and processed at the facility for sale to international markets, generating new county revenues to benefit the island, she said.

China, which is said to no longer have low-grade trees for the production of paper, would buy huge amounts of recycled paper from Kaua‘i, Yukimura claims.

In the five-year plan prepared for the county, the consultant recommended the county pursue a small waste-to-energy plant that will generate revenues from the sale of electricity, and expanding recycling and solid waste projects.

At the same time, the consultant encouraged curbside pickup of recyclable goods and construction of a new landfill to better manage solid waste in the future.

Council chairman Kaipo Asing and councilmembers Ron Kouchi, Mel Rapozo and Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho attended the meeting. Asing said the plan contains a lot of information that he wanted to go over before making any decisions.

County officials said they expect R.W. Beck will submit a final report by fall.

Yukimura described the metals recovery facility as a major part of a “zero-waste management system” that will benefit Kaua‘i if implemented. The other parts include a composting facility and an educational program to encourage people to recycle, Yukimura said.

Karen M. Luken, a senior director with R. W. Beck, pinpointed one recycling program she think has worked well for Kaua‘i — the home-based, organic composting program executed by county recycling coordinator Allison Fraley.

“It is a very effective program,” Luken said. “It is the best close-loop system I know of.”

Diane Zachary, the president and chief executive officer of the Kaua‘i Planning & Action Alliance, appeared to be mirroring Yukimura’s assessments.

She said the Hawai‘i Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 identifies as its top priorities in descending order: source reduction, recycling and reuse, incineration and landfills.

“Yet the one drawback of the act is that it includes incineration as an alternative,” she said.

In addressing the consultants, Zachary also said, “You can write something about waste-to-energy but pursue something else.”

“I would really hope you keep an open eye on alternatives,” she said.

Zachary also said she hopes information on the “health risk of waste-to-energy be put into the plan.”

She voiced concerns recycling efforts will be torpedoed if a waste-to-energy plant is built. As a facility that could incinerate massive amounts of garbage, residents will see less need to recycle, Zachary said.

Her organization provides opportunities for government, community groups and businesses to work together to find solutions to community issues.

Councilman Tim Bynum said he sees the merit of expanded recycling, but has hasn’t ruled out building a small waste-to-energy plant.

“Mainland communities have tried, but no community has reached zero waste diversion,” Bynum said after the meeting.

As part of the draft plan the consultant recommended, materials that cannot be recycled, “the county will develop a WTE facility that will convert 90 percent (approximately 40,000 tons) of incoming solid waste into energy.”

The plan also states the county will work with private waste haulers to become partners in the development of the system.

If the system were in place, the “potential to further reduce reliance on landfills would increase significantly, and the tipping fee at the WTE (waste-to-energy) facility will most likely decrease,” the report states.

The same report recommends a tipping fee of $123 to $141 for every ton burned, a range that could be higher if not for the revenues from the sale of generated electricity.

But Yukimura said the county could incur expensive liability if the facility were built and the county sold recycled goods instead of sending them to the facility, as required by a contract between the county and the operator.

The consultant also states that the facility, by 2013, could process 45,500 tons a year and produce a projected 20,200 megawatt hours of electricity.

The facility would be built at a cost of up to $50 million, excluding the cost to acquire between 6 to 8 acres for the plant.

The project will most likely be built through the floating of county bonds, but Yukimura questioned whether the county can afford that.

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