Green waste plan delayed

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Following an outcry from local landscapers, Hawaii County has postponed implementing a program requiring commercial operators to haul their green waste to the landfills rather than dumping it at transfer stations.

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Following an outcry from local landscapers, Hawaii County has postponed implementing a program requiring commercial operators to haul their green waste to the landfills rather than dumping it at transfer stations.

The program, originally slated to go into effect Monday, won’t be implemented until July 1, Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd said late Friday. She said she plans to go to the Kealakehe transfer station today to help inform users there.

“I think we’re going to err on the side of trying to listen to and address concerns rather than be rigid,” Leithead Todd said. “As much as this has been going on for years, we’ll take a little more time to work out the details.”

The requirements and tipping fee have been on the books since 2005, but Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration delayed implementing them during the recession. Leithead Todd said the improving economy and low gas prices contributed to the timing of the change.

The Kealakehe transfer station became the flashpoint of the dispute, because many landscape companies using that transfer station are balking at the 30-mile drive on busy Queen Kaahumanu Highway to the Puuanahulu landfill. The policy, once it takes effect, will apply countywide, requiring the haulers to purchase a $25 disposal permit and pay $21.25 per ton to dump the green waste at either Puuanahulu or the Hilo landfill.

The new fee will not affect individual residents or homeowners who will continue to be allowed to drop off residential green waste free at seven transfer stations around the island: Hilo, Puuanahulu, Kealakehe, Keei, Puako, Pahoa and Keaau.

Kailua-Kona landscaper Chris Yeaton was among those objecting to the new policy. He said the county sprung the changes on them quickly and didn’t give them enough time to react.

Yeaton on Saturday praised Leithead Todd, North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff and former Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann for helping get the postponement.

“There is going also to be a public forum for us to all get together and and bring ideas to the table for sustainable solution,” Yeaton said in an email. “I mention these three names and also our mayor because it’s important for credit to be given where credit is due. … This is great news for all of us.”

The county currently pays more than $1.6 million a year to recycle green waste into mulch that is distributed free to the community, and consumers across the island are asking for more recycling opportunities closer to home, Leithead Todd said.

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The new tipping fee is expected to raise more than $500,000 a year to help finance an expansion of organics recycling services islandwide, including establishing new green waste recycling locations at additional transfer stations.

The first of these new green waste recycling facilities will be established May 1 at the Waimea transfer station, Leithead Todd said. The department also plans to begin accepting green waste at the Hawi Recycling and Transfer Station later this year, and plans to add additional green waste collection and recycling sites in 2016.

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