Wille recycles controversial waste plans

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Implementing a “pay as you throw” garbage plan, allowing more East Hawaii garbage to be sent to the West Hawaii landfill and banning recyclables and compostables from both landfills are among Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille’s plans to bring the county closer to the goal of zero waste.

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Implementing a “pay as you throw” garbage plan, allowing more East Hawaii garbage to be sent to the West Hawaii landfill and banning recyclables and compostables from both landfills are among Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille’s plans to bring the county closer to the goal of zero waste.

The County Council Environmental Management Committee on Tuesday moved two measures, Bill 32 and Bill 33, to the Environmental Management Commission as required by county law.

In general, council members liked the approach, but, as Puna Councilman Danny Paleka noted, “the devil is in the details.”

Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd said the pay-as-you-throw concept is a recommendation of the 2009 Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan. But a plan by Wille to allow each household one free bag of garbage a week would be difficult and expensive to implement, Leithead Todd said.

Solid Waste Division Chief Greg Goodale said charging for garbage would be an incentive for people not to throw away so much.

The county had briefly in 2009 considered charging people to throw away their garbage, but Mayor Billy Kenoi put a stop to it after a public outcry. Kauai has a similar program that is scheduled to take effect July 1.

Paleka and some other council members worried that people might not even want to pay a $1-per-bag fee, and asked if there would be some amnesty program or help for those with lower incomes.

“You have people who have a hard time affording a dollar a bag,” Paleka said. “They’re gonna start throwing them on the side of the road.”

Wille said the county currently spends $28 million for solid waste programs. The cost rests on the shoulders of the property owners through their taxes, and there is no break for those who reduce their waste and recycle their recyclables, she said.

“I think the commission has a lot of details to think through,” said North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff. “Sometimes you can’t let the fear of one bad apple spoil the whole basket of apples.”

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A plan in Bill 33 to allow the county to truck East Hawaii waste to the West Hawaii landfill in Puuanahulu generated very little discussion, although it, too was very controversial when it was broached to a former council.

Wille said dumping more garbage at Puuanahulu would lower the tipping fee and save the county money, money that could be used for other garbage projects. Currently, the landfill handles about 290 tons per day, she said. If that was increased to 300 tons per day, the county would save $60,000 to $70,000 a month, she said.

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