Recycling, waste-to-energy focus of 5 year plan

THE GARDEN ISLAND

With more rubbish from more growth, Kaua‘i County should significantly step up and streamline recycling programs, automate debris collection and build a new landfill to better manage the island’s garbage in the future.

Furthermore, a small waste-to-energy project should be built to enhance disposal of garbage and generate electricity for sale.

Those were some of the highpoints of a draft integrated solid waste management plan R.W. Beck, a county consultant with headquarters in Seattle, presented to the Kaua‘i County Council and residents at a workshop at the Lihu‘e Civic Center Thursday.

The five year plan offers the county — for the first time since the last plan was approved in 1994 — comprehensive strategies to dispose of garbage on an island with a landfill slated to close by 2012.

Building a waste-to-energy project will not be cheap, although it can generate between $2.5 million to $2.8 million by 2013 to offset its development cost, the study states.

Also not cheap will be the closing of the Kekaha Landfill, and its continued monitoring.

Millions also will be needed to build a new landfill to replace the existing landfill.

Any new landfill proposal also is likely to re-ignite protests from residents not wanting the facility in their communities, due to concerns about smell and pollution.

One had been proposed at inland areas of Hanama‘ulu in east Kaua‘i more than six years ago, but residents shouted it down.

A key focus in the latest plan is to develop a landfill that is financially feasible to residents and businesses and maximized recycling, Robert W. Craggs, vice president and national director of solid waste practice for R.W. Beck, said at the workshop.

If the five-year framework is fully implemented, substantial amounts of solid waste can be diverted, adding years of life to any landfill, the plan indicates

The landfill currently receives 116,000 tons of garbage yearly, but full implementation of the plan is projected to divert about 85,000 tons, or more than 50 percent, of the solid waste that will be generated by residents and businesses in 2013.

Implementation of the plan would enable Kaua‘i County to move in step with the goals of the state Solid Waste Management Act of 1991, urging counties to divert 25 percent of waste by 1995, and 50 percent by 2000.

Between 1994 and 2005, the county increased diversion from about 3 percent to almost 24 percent.

Karen Luken, a senior director with R.W. Beck, said Kaua‘i County couldn’t be fined because the goal is not mandated by law.

“While the county did not achieve the state act’s goal, this is a significant increase that the county, as well as its residents and businesses, should take pride in accomplishing,” the report states.

By 2013, Kaua‘i County’s “upstream diversion” is anticipated to reach 35 percent.

And encouraging more people — including students through curriculum changes — to recycle will require more education programs, while making recycling more convenient, Luken said.

“You have a relatively mature (recycling) system here,” she said. “People will recycle, but there are people who will recycle only if it is convenient, and people only will recycle if garbage bills are less,” she said.

To encourage recycling, the county should develop a centralized composting facility, Luken said.

“I cannot stress enough the island is called the ‘Garden Island,’” she said of the need for green waste drop-off programs. “You have to compost these materials.”

Suggesting recycling isn’t enough, as no community in the nation has successfully dealt with solid waste problems solely through recycling, Luken said. R.W. Beck recommended the building of a waste-to-energy project.

The facility can convert 90 percent — about 40,000 tons of debris — into energy, the report states. “This waste-to-energy (project) is small,” Craggs said. “We haven’t oversized it.”

And if the county moves forward with such a project, “We recommend the county talk with haulers to provide incentives to bring their garbage to (such a facility) as a way to make the facility more cost effective,” he said.

The consultant also recommended the county build a new landfill to manage about 19,000 tons of non-combustible waste, ash and debris from natural or man-made disasters.

The report also states the county should not plan to develop more landfill space to manage combustible solid waste from private waste haulers after the landfill closes.

Instead, the county should “actively” work with private haulers to become partners in the waste-to-energy project, the report states.

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

A figure of between $123 to $141 per ton has been batted about. The figures could be higher if not for revenues from the sale of electricity generated by the facility, the report indicates.

The plan also would allow for the recycling of computers and electronic equipment, thereby minimizing the risk for toxins to enter into the collected garbage.

As a way to discourage illegal dumping, the consultants recommend the continuation of the practice of allowing residents to dump items at transfer stations — in Hanalei, Kapa‘a, Lihu‘e and Hanapepe — without paying a fee, at least until a “pay-as-you-throw” program kicks in. Through that program, households that generate more garbage will pay more.

A sticking point in the plan could be the proposal requiring households to pay an additional $12 a month, starting in 2009, for garbage service, county officials acknowledged.

Residents currently pay for the service through property tax payments.

That requirement would remain in effect even after the new fee program kicks in after two years, county officials said.

The $3.5 million to $3.7 million expected from the fee will help offset the use of county general funds to operate the landfill, the report indicates.

Because of increased costs for solid waste management services, Mayor Bryan Baptiste, in his proposed $139.4-million operating budget for fiscal year 2007-2008, has asked the Kaua‘i County Council to increase the tipping fee from $56 to $80 for every ton of garbage dumped at the landfill.

The consultants noted the implementation of the $12 monthly fee will support the county’s goal of establishing a solid waste enterprise fund.

In the first year of the draft plan, R.W. Beck points to these highlights:

• Hiring a deputy assistant to a solid waste programs administrator to oversee the plan, a business waste diversion specialist to work with businesses and hospitality industry to increase recycling, and a collection specialist to coordinate an automated collection system.

• Encourage reuse of items through thrift stores, the Habitat for Humanity, home composting, the Kaua‘i Food Bank, Trade Radio on KQNG, education and Aloha Shares Network.

• Ban the use of plastics for setting out green waste for weekly curbside pickup.

• Add recycling drop bins at the Kapa‘a and Hanapepe transfer stations.

• Have the government modify a law to allow business to use drop bin programs if the Kauai Resource Center does not resume operation.

• Have the county stage a yearly electronic waste collection event and hold other events to encourage proper disposal of household hazardous waste.

•  Have a permanent facility to receive old electronic equipment and hazardous household chemicals.

In the second year, R.W. Beck said the county, among other efforts, should launch a new campaign to promote backyard composting, provide automated collection in the Kawaihau and Hanalei districts, begin providing curbside collection of green waste in the same two districts and send out information to medical institutions and pharmacies on the proper handling of needles used for medical care.

Among the plan highlights in the third year, R.W. Beck recommended encouraging residents to buy products, such as cleaning products, with minimal health or environmental hazards and the county start automated collection of debris in south and west Kaua‘i, curbside collection of green waste in those regions and a competitive procurement process for every-other-week curbside collection for residents.

The count also should identify a site to collect old electronic equipment and hazardous waste.

In year four, the consultant recommended the county start a “pay-as-throw system” where all residents pay an additional incremental fee if they require more than one cart for weekly refuse collection, identify a site for a joint, centralized composting and disaster debris stage and disposal facility, institute an every-other-week residential curbside recycling program through a contract with a vendor and promote a new permanent collection facility for old electronic equipment and household hazardous waste.

In the fifth and final year of the plan, the consultant, among other suggestions, recommended completion of the update of a new integrated solid waste management plan, starting up the operation of a centralized composting facility, banning the disposal of electronic equipment and hazardous household waste and educating the public about the ban.

County solid waste specialist Troy Tanigawa promised the plan will be put on the county Web site — www. kauai.gov — soon.

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