County should approve pay-as-you-throw

We all know recycling is important. Recycling on Kauai is even more critical, because it’s an island and we need to keep materials out of the Kekaha landfill, which has a limited life, perhaps another 10 years, before it’s closed.

That’s why the pay-as-you-throw program is a step in the right direction. Yes, it does mean paying more if you want the same size trash cart, or paying the same for a bin that is smaller than what you have today. But by reducing the amount of material you throw away, you can minimize fees.

The county says this new waste management program could divert about 5,500 tons of waste from the landfill each year. That is not chump change. This is achieved by not pitching items like aluminum and steel cans, glass and plastic bottles, cardboard and newspaper, and recycling them instead. Green waste — leaves, grass clipping and branches — contribute to the rise of the landfill. Food waste, which contributes to the landfill, could be diverted by composting.

Until the county can establish a curbside recycling program, which requires a materials recovery facility, it must act to reduce the waste headed to the landfill. Adopting the state’s first pay-as-you-throw program is responsible and necessary. The amount of volume headed to the landfill needs to be reduced. Asking residents to pay for trash based on how much they toss is reasonable.

Some fear this will lead to illegal dumping, as residents try to avoid paying more fees. Others note this island already has some of the highest costs of living in the nation and this only adds to that problem. But the council shouldn’t fear taking action based on what someone might do in response. We also believe that the people who call Kauai home are not going to start dumping trash all over the island to avoid paying a small monthly increase, when they could avoid that increase by recycling and reducing the amount of waste generated from their home. The type of stuff that usually gets illegally dumped — washers, dryers, refrigerators and furniture — is not the kind of trash that’s part of the curbside trash collection.

The council should adopt Bill 2551. The importance of recycling, of conservation, of diverting materials from the landfill, can’t be overstated on an island. We agree with this statement by County Engineer Larry Dill:

“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.”

The Kauai County Council will consider Bill 2551 on first reading today beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the Historic County Building Council Chambers.

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