'Bury and burn' a poor approach to isle waste management
THE IMAGE that best depicts many of the prevailing attitudes toward Waimanalo Gulch might be the three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. I have written on this topic in the past and hoped further comment would be unnecessary. However, the recent commentary by city Environmental Services director Eric Takamura ("City has multipronged approach to garbage," Star-Bulletin, June 23
), begs for a response.
I have never understood why bureaucrats assume that members of the public (whom they serve) either have conveniently short memories or simply lose interest in issues once they are no longer in the headlines. In the case of the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, I believe the public knows enough not to buy Takamura's assertion that the city can do no better than to "bury and burn" our refuse and prolong the continuing burden on a single community.
Let us dissect Takamura's piece. First, he identifies two impediments to the shipping of trash: cost and flow. What he is really saying is that if the city is unable to control the private haulers, the city will lose money; the trash stream also is an income stream.
The cost that Takamura alludes to is the cost of collecting and processing residential solid waste. The question is, who will bear that cost if nonresidential entities such as hotels, resorts, commercial properties and condos, along with the private haulers with which they contract for trash disposal services, can avoid paying the city its $92 a ton tipping fee at a county waste facility? It is no secret that the city clears almost $80 a ton if the solid waste is placed in a landfill. The control of the rubbish -- that is, requiring it to go to a landfill or HPower -- is what he calls "flow." By maintaining its control over this flow, the city can exact its fee from every ton of rubbish.
I have no idea how Takamura arrives at the conclusion that our island enjoys an effective rate of recycling. Saying that we are "above the national average" does little to prove his point. As an island state, our land is severely limited, and our goal must be to bring recycling to a rate that serves our needs, not those of our mainland counterparts.
It is equally perplexing that he considers HPower, which burns trash, to be a form of recycling. Waste to energy is not recycling. If it were, the city should have installed a third boiler at HPower and encouraged that plastic and paper be utilized to assist in the plant's ability to burn trash.
Further, taken to its logical but absurd conclusion, Takamura's belief in "burning as recycling" would allow the city to meet the public's demand for curbside recycling with routine trash pickups. As bizarre and untenable as that position might be on its face, I understand that the city is preparing to make just such an argument.
He also is not quite honest about the effectiveness of HPower. The criticism of HPower and the argument for why a new power generation facility is necessary on the Leeward Coast arise from the fact that HPower is down -- the city's euphemistic term for "not operating" -- for substantial periods of time and, as such, is not a dependable source of energy.
What is most insulting is Takamura's assumption that a new landfill site will be in the Waianae area. To add insult to injury, he alludes to the Waianae community being bought off with a "community benefits package." This package is what the community was due and owed, especially in light of the burden carried for all of the negative externalities.
There can be no doubt that the city is ducking the solid waste challenge. At what point is the rest of our island community going to say, "Enough is enough"? The manner in which Waimanalo Gulch has been operated is a travesty, and no community should be expected to continue to bear that burden.
Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) is president of the state Senate.