Speed up curbside recycling to avoid shipping garbage
A City Council resolution would require consideration of shipping Oahu's trash to the mainland.
THE city's struggle with garbage disposal has a mainland company eager to take Oahu's trash on a cruise to the West Coast
, and some members of the City Council want to keep the shipping lanes open as a contingency.
While the option should be considered as city officials draw up a long-term waste management plan, which is due before summer, a better strategy would be to reduce the amount of trash through curbside recycling.
A law that is already on the books requires curbside collection of four types of recyclable materials by next July. In addition, city voters last November approved a City Charter amendment that includes recycling in the duties and functions of the administration, a clear expression that the people want this done. Officials should speed up the recycling program.
Councilman Todd Apo, whose district includes the city's lone landfill at Waimanalo Gulch, is pushing a resolution that would require officials to consider shipping garbage to the mainland. Meanwhile, a Seattle-based company, called Hawaiian Waste Systems, is seeking permits from the state Department of Health to do just that.
The company says the U.S. Department of Agriculture has conducted an environmental review that would allow a Washington state landfill to receive Hawaii's garbage, and it plans to build a facility at Campbell Industrial Park to process the trash for shipping. Though it is unclear how much the shipping will cost, taxpayers probably would pick up the tab in one form or another.
Oahu generates an estimated 1.75 million tons of trash each year and a city study found that residential trash contains more than 40 percent paper, plastic, metal and other materials that could be recycled. Though the study predates the state's bottle redemption law, curbside recycling could capture at least a third, if not more, of reusable matter.
City officials have been cautious in moving ahead with the curbside program because of possibly increasing costs, particularly for labor, and because residents are wary of cuts in twice-a-week trash pick-up. However, other cities have found that curbside recycling reduced the need for twice-weekly service -- and at the same time recovered costs through sales of recyclables.
The city's landfill permit will expire in about 18 months and though officials hope to expand and extend the landfill operation, Leeward Oahu residents and their elected officials have vehemently opposed its continuation.
Sending garbage off-island might come to be a viable solution, but it is bad policy since smarter, less costly alternatives are available.