Plans for $10.5M Hawaii island compost facility postponed

KAILUA-KONA — Development of a $10.5 million facility on Hawaii island to make compost using green waste and food waste has been postponed because of a shortage of the key components.

Hawaii County’s contract signed in 2016 with Hawaiian Earth Recycling will wait for a new administration to include the compost facility in the county’s solid waste plans, West Hawaii Today reported Thursday.

The plan is now on hold after the county and Hawaiian Earth Recycling signed a six-month “act of god” abeyance because of the coronavirus pandemic.

They jointly suspended the second phase of the project, which involves building the compost facility, Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski said.

Officials said they lack food waste to make the material cook to the high temperature required for the composting process.

The shortage involves more than the closure of hotels, restaurants and schools expected to provide the material. Hog farmers have said for more than a decade they hold contracts for the food waste from those sources as an essential component of raising their product.

Environmental Management Commissioner Jon Olson said Wednesday that the farmers addressed the Solid Waste Advisory Committee on the issue in 2002, and repeated the point to the 2019 committee.

“We were told back then we weren’t going to get hold of the food waste because it was already spoken for,” Olson said.

Kucharski said there is also a shortage of green waste brought to county disposal sites, which is ground for mulch and offered for free or at a reduced loading cost.

All of the material is quickly claimed by residents, Kucharski said.

“When the precursor material has a bigger demand than supply and we don’t have a critical ingredient, we have to ask is this the right way to do it,” Kucharski said.

Environmental Management Commission members on Wednesday said the contract postponement was an opportunity to reevaluate the compost plan, which will be discussed at its meeting next month.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.


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