Public supports recycling, green waste programs

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Dozens of people came out Tuesday to support two nonbinding resolutions asking the administration to seek long-term contracts to divert materials from the county’s two landfills.

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Dozens of people came out Tuesday to support two nonbinding resolutions asking the administration to seek long-term contracts to divert materials from the county’s two landfills.

The resolutions, sponsored by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, target recyclable materials and green waste. The council Environmental Management Committee listened to more than 35 testifiers, but hadn’t voted on the resolutions by press-time Tuesday.

“These resolutions are part of a package of zero waste bills and resolutions I’ll be bringing forward,” Wille said.

Resolution 84 urges the mayor to enter into 10-year contracts to establish regional and community-based organic compost operations. Resolution 87 urges the mayor to enter into one or more five-year contracts to divert recoverable material from the landfills.

“Our landfills have limited lifespans and should be used sparingly in order to prolong them,” said John Winter, speaking for Sustainable Kohala.

Both issues have recently been in the news.

The county Department of Environmental Management last week implemented, and then postponed, a policy requiring all commercial green waste go to one of the county’s two landfills rather than regional transfer stations.

Mayor Billy Kenoi in January raised the ire of recyclers when he killed a $100,000 recycling education program. Cancellation of that contract followed a 2013 action terminating a $394,500 landfill diversion program that helped subsidize private recyclers.

At the same time, many testifiers also praised Kenoi’s decision to yank a waste-to-energy incinerator that was previously under consideration. Kenoi said lower oil prices made building the facility less cost-effective.

The county’s diversion rate, the amount of material recycled rather than thrown in landfills, has increased from 29 percent in 2008 to 37 percent this year.

“I know we’re moving in that direction,” said Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter.

David Cotis, testifying from Kohala, said big corporations are “exploiting our laziness,” and allowing useful items that could be reused or recycled to be ground into “useless toxic mush.” He urged the county to do more to reduce waste.

The county uses a two-bin system to collect recyclables at the county’s 21 transfer stations. One bin is strictly for glass. The other bin is a mixed bag of paper, cardboard, plastic and metals.

In addition, cardboard is separated into its own bin at the Hilo and Puuanahulu landfills. The county also has space set aside for white goods, such as refrigerators, and scrap metal.

Ocean View resident Mike DuBois said the two-bin method was costing the county $236 per ton, while the county diversion subsidy cost $20 per ton for cardboard and newspaper.

“The current county support for recycling efforts is geared toward collection at county transfer stations,” DuBois said. “This program is inefficient, expensive and not far-reaching. Plus, there is a low participation level.”

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Administration officials say the two-bin method makes recycling more convenient for residents, and thus increases the chance they’ll recycle rather than toss recyclables into the garbage can.

“We actually have multiple streams of diversion going on,” said Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd.

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