Garbage would be an ignominious export for Honolulu
The city is planning to ship away Oahu's garbage.
UNABLE to cope physically and politically with Oahu's tons of trash, the Hannemann administration and the City Council have rigged a dicey plan to ship some of it off island
while asking the state's permission to keep burying the rest in a landfill
The plan is iffy and should any of the bureaucratic or financial components hit a snag, officials could be left scrambling.
The administration and the Council need no reminder that city taxpayers would not be happy if the trash plan ends up costing them more. Though there are several companies willing to sail away with garbage for a profit, officials better have their calculators powered up to ensure another fee isn't just beyond the horizon.
There are a number of considerations ahead.
The city has to contract a company to ship trash elsewhere at a cost reasonable for both parties. The Council has budgeted $5 million, which it expects will cover just six months of service.
How much more will be necessary or whether the city can make a better deal -- maybe by juggling the $92-a-ton tipping fee it now charges private disposal services -- isn't clear, and the fee is needed to cover costs for residential trash collection.
The city plans to ask for bids in August, make a deal by Sept. 20 and begin shipping trash sometime in the first three months of next year.
That timeline is critical because in May, the city's permit for its sole landfill will expire. The administration hopes to argue that since less trash would be dumped there, a permit extension and expansion of the landfill would have less impact.
To get the extension, city officials will have to jump their own and the state's bureaucratic hurdles, and in the process could meet resistance from the Leeward community that has vehemently opposed the landfill's continued operation.
Controversy could also be heightened by the recent discovery of "culturally significant" stones, thought to have been used for ancient navigational purposes, in the expansion area. Further, while the city's initial extension request is for 20 months, it hopes to keep the landfill open for at least 15 years.
An extension would again postpone making politically difficult decisions about trash disposal that officials have been afraid to confront. Proposals for a new H-Power plant have fallen by the wayside as other projects took funding priority.
In previous years, Council members and Mayor Mufi Hannemann opposed shipping away garbage because of the cost and the view that a sustainable city should be responsible for its waste.
One trash-shipping company representative told the Council his business needs a guaranteed garbage volume of 100,000 tons a year to make a profit. With Oahu generating 1 million tons a year and growing, that guarantee, unfortunately, wouldn't be a problem.
Meanwhile, curbside recycling, which voters have said they want and which could significantly reduce the amount of trash, is stuck in the doldrums.