City has multipronged approach to garbage
The Star-Bulletin's editorial Thursday
on the proposed shipping of a small percentage of Honolulu's trash to a mainland landfill does nothing to enlighten your readers and, in fact, grossly misleads them as to what is actually happening on the solid waste front.
The Hannemann administration from the outset has been upfront about the complex challenges we have faced since taking office; trash is one of them.
There have been two main impediments to shipping: cost and the city's ability to control the flow of its waste stream. We are currently studying the anticipated cost. Mayor Mufi Hannemann does not believe the city should ship waste if it is not financially feasible, and therefore, your rank speculation about a possible tax increase to finance this scheme is simply a scare tactic.
The Hannemann administration has always maintained that as long as the city could control the flow of its waste stream, then shipping was in the realm of possibility.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring that municipalities do, in fact, have the ability to control waste streams, has led to the most recent discussion, with the council requesting that $5 million be set aside for off-island shipping. Before that ruling was made, there was a question about the city's ability to control all waste generated on this island. Until the Supreme Court ruling was made, the threat shipping presented was loss of "good" waste to a mainland landfill, resulting in loss of a valuable commodity that can be burned and turned into energy that can be sold to Hawaiian Electric Co., increasing our sustainability.
To say that recycling plans are in the doldrums is about as far from the truth as you can be. Honolulu already has a 35 percent recycling rate, which puts the city above the national average. And that rate climbs to 57 percent when you factor in the use of HPower. If you're paying any attention at all, you'll know that the city is rolling out an enhanced curbside pickup program, building upon our current green cycling program, sometime this fall.
Far from falling by the wayside, there is a request for proposal out for a new waste- to-energy recycling facility that will enhance our sustainability. More than a third of the island's trash is currently picked up curbside eight times a month and recycled into electricity for use by Honolulu residents. We have always prioritized waste to energy as a form of recycling and we wish to expand this process.
The experts tell us the city will always need a landfill. The City Council has been on record since 2004 saying it should be located at Waimanalo Gulch.
Leeward residents, while not thrilled with the location, know that alternative sites are worse. Many of them would rather deal with a known entity rather than build an entirely new landfill closer to their homes. That is why the Hannemann administration last year and again this year is offering a community-benefits package for use by worthy Leeward Oahu groups, which by all accounts has been much appreciated.
There are many challenges ahead, and we are meeting them head-on each and every day. To accuse us of ducking the solid waste challenge is ignorant at best. Hannemann will continue to face difficult decisions head-on and propose solutions based on factual information and community input.
Eric Takamura is the director of the city Department of Environmental Services.