Monday, April 5, 1999

Closure of plant is
setback for recycling

Bullet The issue: Waimanalo recycling plant had problems with odor and handling wastewater.
Bullet Our view: Planners of other recycling projects could learn from plant's mistakes.

THE cause of recycling waste to preserve resources and reduce environmental damage has been set back with the closure of the Unisyn Biowaste Technology plant in Waimanalo. The company said the decision was based on the cost of improvements required by the state government and "uncertainty about future requirements."

The organic recycling facility, which was intended to help the environment, became an environmental issue itself. Neighbors had complained for years about the odors it produced.

Gary Gill, state deputy health director for environmental health, said, "Unisyn provided needed recycling services, but an important part of any wastewater technology is its location. Anything near a residential area is going to generate opposition." Gill had sent a letter to Unisyn on Feb. 17 advising the company that it was in violation of its solid waste permit.

One problem, as Gill noted, is that there are very few good locations available for such a facility. Unisyn's technology, he said, created problems with odor and the handling of wastewater that could be solved but at considerable expense.

The company said the plant was recycling 35 tons of wet waste (food) and 35 tons of green waste daily. The purchasing agent for the Kahala Mandarin Oriental, Denise Anderson, said Unisyn was providing a reliable service and should have received more support from the state and the community.

Recycling operations are valuable, but like any other activity they must be conducted without creating a nuisance for the neighbors. Planners of future recycling operations could learn from the mistakes of this one.


Hong Kong decision

Bullet The issue: Whether children born in China to parents who were Hong Kong residents have the right to live in Hong Kong
Bullet Our view: The court's ruling could force a confrontation with China on Hong Kong autonomy.

HONG Kong's relationship with Beijing has been evolving since the 1997 turnover and it is still uncertain how far China will comply with its pledge to keep hands off Hong Kong's political and economic systems. A potential constitutional crisis was brewing over a Hong Kong court decision, but now seems to have been averted.

In January Hong Kong's highest court, the Court of Final Appeal, ruled that children born in China to parents who were Hong Kong residents had the right to live in Hong Kong. The decision overturned a law passed by the Beijing-appointed Hong Kong legislature, denying residency to such children. A spokesman for China's State Council charged that the decision violated the so-called Basic Law governing Hong Kong under Chinese rule, indicating that Beijing might try to have it reversed.

At the request of Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa's government for clarification, the court issued a statement that it "did not question the authority of the Standing Committee (of the National People's Congress) to make an interpretation that would have to be followed by the courts of the region. The court accepts that it cannot question that authority."

This prompted Chinese officials to respond that the "situation has been in many ways resolved." The situation is ambiguous because the court has not reversed its decision. The next time an immigration case comes before the court, it will have to decide whether to uphold its original ruling.

Beijing evidently has been mollified, but the ultimate resolution of the issue is unclear. If Beijing forces a showdown and prevails it will be a setback for Hong Kong's judiciary -- and for Hong Kong's autonomous status.


Captain Cook’s ship

Bullet The issue: A replica of Capt. James Cook's ship Endeavour will visit the Big Island and Kauai but not Oahu.
Bullet Our view: Honolulu must not pass up this opportunity.

SOME civic- and historically minded organization should step forward and support a visit of the replica of Capt. James Cook's ship Endeavour to Honolulu. The new Endeavour is currently on an around-the-world voyage, maintained by an Australian-New Zealand nonprofit group.

The vessel plans to visit Kealakekua Bay, where Cook was killed, as well as Kailua Bay on the Big Island, and Port Allen, Kauai -- but not Honolulu. The reason is that the Hawaii Maritime Center, the logical site to moor the ship, can't afford it. The center is owned by the Bishop Museum, which, unlike the Bishop Estate, is experiencing financial hardship owing to a cutoff of state support and was recently forced to lay off staff members.

Maritime Center director Bob Moore, said the situation was unfortunate but "we just couldn't spend the money." He added, "It's a great opportunity that will pass us by, unless another organization, like the Aloha Tower or the Navy in Pearl Harbor -- can host the ship."

Somebody should. Artist Herb Kane, credited with bringing the Endeavour to Hawaii, said it was ironic that the small community of West Hawaii is welcoming the ship while the trouble "is coming from Oahu, the island with all the resources."

The original Endeavour never came to Hawaii. Cook's visits to Hawaii were made on the Resolution and the Discovery, similar vessels. Still this voyage presents a unique opportunity to learn about the great explorer of the Pacific who discovered Hawaii for the Western world. Honolulu shouldn't miss it.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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