From trash to cash

LIHU‘E — When Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. in May gave the County Council his supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2012, which started July 1, the county’s curbside recycling program was slashed at the 11th hour by council members.

“It was ‘putting the cart before the horse’ and causing unreasonable costs to the county and taxpayers,” Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said.

Automated curbside recycling collection lasted from Sept. 2, 2010, until the last week of August, and serviced about 1,300 households for an entire year, according to Solid Waste Programs Coordinator Allison Fraley.

Yukimura said the curbside recycling program ended because it was not following the proper sequence specified in the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan — which the administration developed and the council approved.

The county in 2010 awarded Garden Isle Disposal a six-month contract to process recyclables collected by the pilot program. GID’s bill to the administration — per bid and subsequent contract — was $2,198 per month.

But after six months of processing less recyclables than expected, and blocking other operations for two-days-a-week at its Nawiliwili plant, GID told the county it would cost more if they wanted to extend the contract, according to GID Account Executive Steven Kaui.

“The contract contained a provision allowing for a 6 month extension,” Fraley said. “The extension was exercised via amendment with an amended price of $16,499.89 per month.”

Documents provided by the county’s Purchasing Division confirm Fraley’s numbers.

Kaui said GID was losing money in the first six months of the contract, because the recyclables came in with more contamination and in less volume than originally expected. After processing, GID ships recyclables to the Mainland for a profit.

GID President Scott Kouchi on Dec. 30 sent a letter to the administration, in which he said the original bid estimated 9 man hours per weekly load, but GID was actually using 50 man hours per load due to high level of contamination. The bid also projected GID would receive 8 tons per load, but actual numbers were at approximately 4.5 tons per load.

Despite a 750 percent cost increase in the amended contract, Fraley said the administration received strong support to continue the program, and likely would have continued it if funding had been provided in the budget for the current fiscal year. The administration requested to extend the program, she said, but the council denied it due to the high cost of processing.

Kaui also said GID would have continued to process the recyclables had the program continued.

The county, however, would apparently be trampling the recommendations in the ISWMP had the program continued before the entire island received automated collection service.

“The ISWMP recommends that the islandwide curbside collection program be implemented after the entire island of Kaua‘i is converted to the automated collection which will not occur until FY 2013-2014,” Fraley said.

On Sept. 5 the county expanded automated collection to approximately 6,500 households, from Anahola to Hanama‘ulu.

“Eventually, most households will have automated trash pick-up as we continue to roll out the program over the next several years,” Carvalho on July 28 said in a press release.

As of September, according to the same release, half of Kaua‘i’s residences would have automated collection.

Fraley said there area currently 9,105 households on the island being serviced by automated collection.

Materials Recovery Facility

The major issue that has pushed council members in May to deny the extension of curbside recycling was the administration’s decision to put in the backburner the construction of a Materials Recovery Facility, which is supposed to bring down processing costs considerably.

“A MRF is where the trash is transformed from rubbish to commodity, from problem to products-of-value, from cost to income and jobs for the county,” Yukimura said.

The facility will cost approximately $8.65 million, including planning, permitting, design, and land acquisition, according to Fraley.

The MRF was taken out by the administration from the budget for this fiscal year’s Capital Improvement Projects, in accordance with a new county policy of not budgeting for projects that will not commence construction in the next 12-18 months.

With the MRF not being budgeted for this fiscal year, and with a 50/50 chance of being budgeted for the next one, which starts July 1, 2012, the administration may be considerably lagging behind the ISWMP projected dates.

The ISWMP shows designing and siting of a MRF in 2009, according to Yukimura. Completion of the facility was projected for 2012, and only after the MRF would be in operation is that the curbside recycling was supposed to start.

“To be cost effective and efficient, you need a proper place to sort and bale the recycled items picked up through curbside recycling,” she said. “Only then is it possible to sell the recycled materials.”

13-fold cheaper

The extension of the program was budgeted at $165,000 for the current fiscal year. This number would be able to cover only 10 months of processing recyclables under the amended contract between GID and the county.

Yukimura said it would have been one the highest per-pound processing costs in the nation.

“We would better spend that $165,000 toward a MRF,” she said.

At the end of the pilot program — when the county was paying GID $16,499 monthly — the per-home cost of sorting and processing the recyclables was $12.70 per month, according to Fraley.

The number per household may not seem significant, but when the cost is tagged to collected tonnage, it is considerably high.

After tabulating all the data, Fraley said the overall tonnage collected per month was 18.7 tons.

“For the initial term of the contract, the cost was $117 per ton, and for the second term of the contract, the cost was $882 per ton,” she said.

By comparison, once a MRF is built the cost per ton is supposed to drop more than 13-fold.

“The ISWMP estimates the cost of processing at a county-built MRF to be $35 per ton, plus the debt service to cover the amortized cost of constructing the facility, which we estimate to be an additional $32 per ton,” said Fraley, explaining that that after adding those numbers the projected final cost to process recyclables through a county-built MRF would be $67 per ton.

Interim MRF

The end of curbside recycling means that until the MRF is built, and unless residents are recycling on their own, the landfill in Kekaha could potentially receive each year roughly 225 tons of garbage that could have been recycled.

“We suspect that many people who started to recycle during the pilot program will stop because the convenience of curbside service has ended,” said Fraley, adding that “at the other end of the spectrum,” the administration has heard from many who used to recycle prior to the pilot program that they will continue to do so.

The approximate annual disposal rate of the Kekaha Landfill is 80,000 tons per year, according to Fraley. The landfill could reach its maximum capacity anywhere between 6.3 to 10 years, depending on a few factors.

“The remaining capacity of the first cell of the lateral expansion at Kekaha is about three years,” she said. “The second cell has another 3.3 years. Diversion opportunities may prolong the life one year. Additional capacity is also available if a third cell were to be developed.”

Fraley said the administration is considering plans to provide an interim MRF prior to siting a permanent facility at a future Resource Recovery Park to be built adjacent to a new landfill currently sited for Kalepa.

The cost for an interim MRF may vary, and its location has yet to be determined, she said.

“We are working on potential locations, design, equipment, timelines, etc. for an interim MRF,” said Fraley, adding that because the administration is in the process of discussing details internally they cannot provide particulars at this time.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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