Pay-as-you-throw revisited

  • Theresa Emerson tosses her recycle items in the mixed bin at the Kealakehe Transfer Station. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — A pay-as-you-throw bag-tag rubbish program could be revisited after it was rejected first in 2009 and again in 2015.

The Solid Waste Advisory Committee, a group convened every decade to update the county’s Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan, is again recommending a program where people would have to purchase tags or stickers to throw away garbage at county transfer stations and landfills.


The committee on Wednesday began sifting through the first 93 recommendations from the 2009 plan, to update old recommendations, strike through obsolete ones and perhaps begin adding new ones.

As the county moves toward its stated goal of zero waste, giving people incentives to reuse and recycle rather than throwing out so much trash has to include a mix of policies, the committee said. Several committee members said that has to include making it easier and cheaper to recycle rather than simply toss it in the trash.

“I think this is so critical. … We’ve got to find a way,” said committee member Barbara Bell, who was director of the Environmental Management Department during Mayor Harry Kim’s first term in the early 2000s. “We’ve been talking about it since the mid ’90s. …This makes it another 10 years.”

Trash disposal at transfer stations is currently offered free to residents, while commercial rubbish haulers pay tipping fees at the landfill. The program is heavily subsidized by property taxes, which means some people end up paying for trash disposal twice — first in their property taxes, and then if they subscribe to curbside or dumpster services.

Some $11.6 million in the annual budget comes from landfill permit fees and tipping fees, while $19.3 million comes from the general fund, primarily from property taxes. State recycling grants count for the rest of the $36 million budget.

“We’re probably the most generous county in providing services,” Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski said Thursday. “Property taxes are our revenue source rather than direct user fees.”

Kauai, for example, implemented a paid trash pickup system in 2015. All Kauai property owners pay a $6 monthly base fee that covers dumping at transfer stations and landfills. Residents on curbside pickup routes pay an additional $12 monthly if they use a 96-gallon trash cart and $4 a month if they use a 64-gallon trash cart.

Kucharski said Hawaii County’s next step will be to create stronger littering laws and a way to enforce them. He’s currently working with Corporation Counsel to find the best approach before coming to the County Council with suggestions for code changes.

“You can’t have a rule with no enforcement and just hope that there’s going to be compliance,” Kucharski said.

Committee member Steven Araujo was on the same page.

“There needs to be some kind of strategy where we’re not going to see rubbish in the bushes,” Araujo said.


Committee Vice Chairman Alan Okinaka preferred the carrot over the stick, saying a proactive campaign could help get people enthusiastic about alternatives to simply throwing stuff out.

“You can punish people,” Okinaka said, “but that only works so far.”

  1. Sonny Poindexter September 14, 2018 8:24 am

    This island is covered with rubbish ,while transfer stations are free. Pay as you throw is a great idea ! But it WILL NOT WORK !!! Who is gonna clean up all of the rubbish of the big island and who is gonna pay for it, and how much will all of this cost.Again ,who is gonna pay for free dumping in the gulches.WAKE UP IT IS 2018 already.These people are wasting time and money coming up with ideas that don’t work.I know who’s paying for that.

  2. KonaLife September 14, 2018 8:55 am

    This is a great example of our government not being able to think through the unintended consequences of their proposed policies. Business dumpsters are already full of neighborhood waste because people are too lazy to go to the dump, which is now free. Our neighborhoods are already littered large waste items because people are too lazy to go the dump, which is now free.

    Now, they residents to pay per bag at the dump? I can guarantee that given the choice to pay $6 a bag or two at the dump, or to throw the bags on the roadside for free, you’ll have a lot of people choosing the latter. Then we’d have to pay the County and State workers way more than $6 a bag to go clean things up!

    Or, as in Kauai, they want might consider adding a $6/month use fee to all household for using the dump. Will they reduce our property taxes $6/month? Of course not: this is just another cash grab by the County.

    But, the most important thing is, none of these new fees will reduce consumption and thus waste in our landfill, which is their stated goal. Or is it a veiled attempt to grow the budget?

  3. Big Mac September 14, 2018 9:20 am

    Each house with garbage service should have a can for plastics, a can for aluminum and a can for rubbish. The money made on recycling the cans and plastic should cover the cost of picking up two extra small cans and the rubbish trucks will have less to pick up. Problem solved. You drastically increase recycling and reduce rubbish going to the landfill and you don’t need to charge anyone a penny. Don’t even think about charging per bag. The Island would look like a third world country.

  4. Paul Montague September 15, 2018 8:21 am

    Want more recycling? Try emptying your recycling bins more often. They are usually overflowing and impossible to use. Also, photo of woman throwing out her recyclables in a non-recyclable plastic bag is not helpful. If you charge per bag, Hawaii will have more illegal dumping on the side of the road than it already does.

  5. Mike Lumi September 15, 2018 10:43 am

    “The program is heavily subsidized by property taxes, which means some people end up paying for trash disposal twice — first in their property taxes, and then if they subscribe to curbside or dumpster services.” CHOICES WE MAKE FOR CONVENIENCE.

  6. Mike Lumi September 15, 2018 10:45 am

    Police dispatch will receive 100+ calls a day: “Hi, Someone dumped rubbish bags along my roadway. Can you send someone to enforce the law?”

  7. Mike Lumi September 15, 2018 10:47 am

    Better have the Police stationed at every transfer station for the fights that will break out. Cheap entertainment.

  8. Mike Lumi September 15, 2018 10:53 am

    The County is high. You’d be better off hiring staff to sift through rubbish to separate the recyclables (Which in itself is ridiculous.), or the County and State will need to start a new sub department of Public Works to pick up trash all over the island!

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