‘Bury and burn’ part of sensible waste disposal
Sen. Colleen Hanabusa continues to mischaracterize the city's approach to solid waste management ("Bury and burn a poor approach to isle waste management," "In My View," Star-Bulletin, July 1
). The senator is always quick to criticize, but again offers no tangible solutions for our island's solid waste needs.
The city's goal is to reduce the amount of garbage sent to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill. As such, it's difficult to understand her position that recycling waste into energy is not a form of recycling. Through HPower, we convert 22 percent of our trash into electricity. This electricity is sold to Hawaiian Electric Co. for about $30 million a year, powers 40,000 homes and replaces 600,000 barrels of imported fossil fuel.
Hanabusa incorrectly claims that HPower is not operating dependably. In fact, HPower was designed to process only 560,000 tons of garbage per year, but for each of the past three years has been processing 600,000 tons, well above the design capacity. Altogether, HPower eliminates at least 420,000 tons of our trash and generates electricity to boot.
The one thing Hanabusa was right about is the city's support for additional waste-to-energy capacity. The city is seeking to expand its waste-to-energy capacity from the current 600,000 tons to 1 million tons a year, which will divert an additional 11 percent of our waste from the landfill. This form of recycling will cut waste while reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuel. In January, we posted a request for proposals for this new capacity; bids will be opened July 30.
Hanabusa accuses us of misleading the public on the tip fees collected from private waste companies. This administration has always been candid that part of the tip fee is revenue that pays for our solid waste collection and disposal system. If we should lose that subsidy, the cost of our refuse services will have to be borne by the residents, either through higher property taxes or user fees.
Hanabusa is misleading readers if she believes that expanding recycling through a residential curbside program will eliminate the need for a landfill. The city, through its consultant R. W. Beck, conducted a waste composition study on solid waste collection. The results showed that even with a high 70 percent participation rate, curbside collection of mixed-recyclables would only divert an additional 40,000 tons of trash from the landfill a year -- representing a tiny 2 percent of the garbage we generate.
Despite this minor impact to our total landfill diversion rate, which stands at 57 percent, voters approved a City Charter amendment calling for expansion of the city's residential collection service to include mixed recyclables. Mayor Mufi Hannemann held seven community meetings across Oahu recently to gather public input on the city's proposal to roll out a pilot program this fall.
Can we ship our trash elsewhere? Only if it proves to be financially feasible. Moreover, it will not eliminate the need for a landfill, which the experts tell us we will always need.
Hanabusa's tirades about the city, and now me personally, for not adhering to her ideas for solid waste disposal are wearing thin. As Hannemann has always said, if you don't agree with our solutions to Oahu's problems, bring us better ones and we will always listen. So far, Hanabusa has given us nothing to listen to.
Eric Takamura is the director of the city Department of Environmental Services.