Tuesday, November 9, 2004


No growth in city trash
not a high enough goal


A study projects that the amount of garbage going to city landfills won't increase during the next 25 years.

USED newspapers and magazines have become such a valuable commodity in Tokyo that security guards patrol municipal collection stations to fend off thieves. The demand, fueled by China's escalating economy, has pushed up prices as much as 700 percent, unexpectedly transforming trash into a cash product for recycling.

Would that Honolulu could find a customer for some of its garbage. That would be one way of moving the city toward a state-mandated goal that requires counties to reduce by half the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.

Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann, who campaigned on setting basic services in good order, must pick up the trash problem where Jeremy Harris has left off. In an interview with the Star-Bulletin's Crystal Kua, Hannemann specified bulky-item pickup and settling a labor dispute that is hampering curbside recycling as priorities for his new administration.

They should be. However, the city's multifaceted garbage problem will entail integrated solutions.

A consultant's study presented to the City Council recently painted a seemingly encouraging picture of Honolulu's trash future. It projected that even as more trash is generated during the next 25 years, the amount of garbage sent to landfills will hold steady if recycling and HPOWER are expanded.

That's not good enough. The city now diverts only about a third of its garbage through HPOWER and recycling, falling short of what the law requires.

The study appears to mirror the current administration's blueprint to manage the city's garbage, suggesting expansion of HPOWER, finding a new landfill to last 25 years, working with the state on drink container recycling and starting up islandwide green-waste collections.

Other proposals, like privatizing and charging fees for trash services, are flash points for unionized public workers and taxpayers, but they aren't entirely bad ideas. If garbage collection can be done more economically by private companies, Hannemann and the Council should consider it. If residents generate excessive trash -- say, more than bins can contain -- it might be reasonable to place a toll on their service.

The study also suggests recycling wood, metal and concrete from homes and commercial structures that are torn down, as is becoming more common on the mainland, using ash from HPOWER in construction and tracking the kind of material being tossed out for recycling potential.

Some of these ideas and more innovative ones have been discussed before but have been opposed or challenged by various interest groups as well as taxpayers. A new mayor might be able to break through the barriers.




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