City calls HPOWER recycling
But Councilman Djou says burning waste at HPOWER does not comply with the law
Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration says it is complying with a city recycling law by burning waste paper and plastics.
But the law's sponsor, City Councilman Charles Djou, disputes that, noting the law was intended to recycle waste products, not get rid of them.
The ordinance passed earlier this year mandates that the city pick up at curbside two of five recyclable items by next July 1.
A city official says the city picks up newspapers and plastics curbside in regular trash pickup and burns those items at the city's HPOWER garbage-to-energy plant.
"When (the Council) put together that ordinance, they thought that in order to recycle like paper and plastic, the only way to recycle would be to separate them out ... and get them to someone who could recycle the paper and plastic to other paper products or other plastic products," said Eric Takamura, director of the city Department of Environmental Services. "But when we recycle by sending it to HPOWER and combusting it and using the heat to produce electricity, we had a discussion that because that is a form of recycling, we're already doing curbside recycling for (plastic and newspaper)."
Takamura said the city currently picks up a third recyclable item -- green waste -- curbside in a separate automated collection and turns it into compost, which also fulfills the law. Now to fully comply with the law, the city need only decide which of the remaining two items -- glass and food waste -- to pick up, and come up with a plan on how to do it by the 2008 deadline.
Djou said he believes the intent of the new law was to mandate separate curbside pickup for the four items for recycling.
"I don't think there was any misunderstanding when we passed this bill," Djou said, "so I think they're going back on it. What they're talking about here now is something entirely different of what we passed."
Takamura, however, said the administration has never wavered from its position on burning plastics and newspapers at the waste-to-energy plant and turning them into electricity.
As a result, Djou introduced a resolution interpreting the law that "the recyclables collected through the city's curbside recycling program be collected, separated, recovered, and sold or reused as part of a process aimed at producing a marketable produce and not be incinerated at a waste-to-energy or other incineration facility."
The administration asked the Council Public Works and Energy Committee to defer taking action, and the committee did just that on Thursday.
"I don't think we had the misunderstanding, because we've always stated that waste-to-energy was a form of recycling," Takamura said.
Djou said, "I had to fight so incredibly hard to get curbside recycling mandated, and now we're switching up in the public and doing nothing.
"I think that's very disturbing and disappointing."