Shrinking waste

LIHUE — County of Kauai officials are moving ahead with a new waste management program that would charge residents based on how much they throw away, though some have concerns.

Councilman Ross Kagawa said providing residents with smaller bins for the same fees they’re paying now — or charging them a little more to use the same trash carts that they have now — may increase illegal dumping.

“Keeping the same thing that you have, I think people, in these times, expect more of an increase because times are tough, but I still have some issues with the bill at this time with the economy the way it is,” Kagawa said.

Other officials, however, say an overhaul of the county’s waste management fee structure is needed to divert more waste from the Kekaha landfill at a time when future expansion options are narrowing.

They say that proposal, which would implement the state’s first pay-as-you-throw program, is intended to encourage recycling practices and serve as a critical step forward in the county’s plan to collect, handle and process waste better.

“The concept of pay as you throw is a volume based payment structure for refuse service,” County Solid Waste Program Coordinator Allison Fraley told County Councilmembers during their meeting on Wednesday. “Residents who choose smaller trash carts will pay less for service. This program incentivizes waste diversion, source reduction, reuse and recycling.”

The proposed pay-as-you-throw program, outlined in Bill 2551, would revamp the county’s current refuse collection fee structure by charging residential properties a monthly $6 base fee to use the county’s five transfer stations and another $6 fee for one 64-gallon cart, or two 32-gallon carts, if those customers opt to have their waste picked up from their homes.

Residents pay the same price on their real property tax assessments, under the county’s current fee structure, for one 96-gallon cart or three 32-gallon carts. If residential customers opt to use these same carts under the proposed rate structure, they would have to pay the monthly $6 base fee along with an additional $15 fee — a $9 monthly increase from what they pay now.

“Success will be measured by residents who choose a smaller waste disposal cart, increase their household waste diversion rate, and thereby minimize the fees they pay while helping the county meet its waste diversion goals,” County Engineer Larry Dill wrote in an email. “We feel this is achievable for many households and will be prepared to assist residents in meeting that goal.”

About 5,500 tons of waste, Fraley said, is expected to be diverted from the landfill each year under the county’s proposed pay-as-you-throw-program.

In all, about 20,000 residential customers are currently charged the monthly $6 base fee, Dill said. About 10 percent of these residents, totaling about 2,000 customers, do not pay any additional fees for curbside trash pick up and only opt to use the county’s transfer stations.

Residents who request an additional 64-gallon cart, or two 32-gallon carts, under the county’s proposed pay-as-you-throw program, would pay an additional $12 each month. Meanwhile, those who request an additional 96-gallon cart, or three 32-gallon carts, would pay an additional $21 each month.

The proposed pay-as-you-throw program, according to Department of Public Works figures, would generate about $3.51 million, if at least 60 percent of all residential customers who opt for curbside pick up services choose a 64-gallon cart. About $2.74 million in revenue is being generated by the county’s current waste management program.

Still, officials say that any additional revenues generated by the proposed pay-as-you-throw program would be used to offset higher costs in recycling.

“We do expect recycling costs to go up a little bit because more people would be participating, so that would help cover those costs,” Fraley said.

An opponent of the proposal, Glenn Mickens, wrote testimony that echoed Kagawa’s concerns.

“When these added fees or taxes are implemented, uncaring or struggling people will simply dump their trash along our roads or on private properties,” he wrote.

Though some residents say they are concerned that illegal dumping will increase if the pay-as-you-throw program is implemented, many of the 1,000 communities nationwide that have adopted a similar program have not seen much of an increase, Fraley said. Most of the materials that are illegally dumped, she said, are bulky items and not residential trash.

“It’s just rare that there are problems with illegal dumping,” Fraley said. “It’s more of a perceived problem.”

She said the program must be passed in September so Department of Public Works staff can begin asking customers which fee options and bin sizes they would prefer to determine cart orders. If the program is not approved by that time, the rollout of the program will be likely delayed for one year.

When asked why curbside recycling was not implemented before the pay-as-your-throw program was proposed, Fraley said there have been some delays in getting the recycling program off the ground.

“This is just an opportunity for us to do what we can without curbside recycling in place,” Fraley said. “We’re trying our best to make it happen, but in the interim, there’s no reason why couldn’t at least start this part of the program.”

The Kauai County Council will reconsider Bill 2551 on first reading at their Aug. 27 meeting, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the Historic County Building Council Chambers.

Written testimony can also be sent to: counciltestimony@kauai.gov.

The 2012 figures below represent the estimated cost of the county’s residential waste disposal program per household each month, based on 18,500 customers:

– Landfill: $11.35

– Transfer stations: $10.60

– Collection: $16.40

– Recycling and green waste: $11.30

– Other diversion programs: $6.30

Total cost: $55.95

Source: County of Kauai Department of Public Works

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