County considers changes in fees for rubbish hauling

  • Waste is dumped in April at the West Hawaii Sanitary Landfill in Pu‘uanahulu. (CHELSEA JENSEN/West Hawaii Today)

The county is reconsidering a change in how rubbish haulers are charged at the county’s landfills.

Since 2017, the county has imposed annual increases to tipping fees at its landfills. Fees were $85 per ton in 2016 and rose to $108 per ton in 2017, and have increased by $2 each year since.

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On July 1, fees will rise once again from $112 per ton to $114. Next year, when fees will reach $116 per ton, is the last scheduled increase.

The scheduled increases are a natural product of the rising cost of living and doing business, said Ramzi Mansour, current director of the County Department of Environmental Management. However, as the cost of dumping waste at the landfill goes up, a credit that would have offset that cost for rubbish haulers was rescinded last year.

Previously, rubbish haulers were entitled to a residential credit that allowed them to entirely waive tipping fees if they were hauling residential waste. After all, Mansour said, residents are not charged to deposit their waste at the landfill, and so haulers carrying residential waste were not either.

However, that credit was rescinded late last year to the consternation of haulers now having to pay hundreds of dollars more per trip to the landfill.

“Without the residential credit, there is a 90% chance that we will go out of business,” said Steven Araujo, owner of D&D Rubbish Service in Kurtistown, at a Tuesday meeting of the County Council’s Regenerative Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management Committee. “According to my calculations for my business, at the same rate I charge now, I will lose two-thirds of my income. If we raise the rates, we will have to double the rate, which amounts to a substantial amount per customer, and at that rate we would lose all our customers.”

Araujo added that, should rubbish haulers go out of business, the county landfills will have to accommodate more than 500 cars hauling residential waste per day.

Mansour said he is looking into how the decision to remove the residential credit was made, but emphasized that it was made by the previous administration, before he was appointed to his current office.

“We’re working on navigating the situation with the garbage haulers,” Mansour said, adding the county may need to renegotiate terms with the haulers.

On one hand, Mansour said, it seems only fair that the residential credit be reinstated: “We don’t charge residents to use our landfills,” he said simply.

On the other hand, the county also needs to reconsider how the credit is applied. Previously, Mansour said, haulers simply told county staff at the landfill the addresses where their loads originated in order to have the credit applied, which he said could easily be fabricated.

Mansour also said the credit allowed haulers to “double-dip” — receiving payouts both from residents paying for their services and from the county waiving tipping fees.

Ultimately, Mansour said it might not be sustainable in the long-term to continue to allow residents to freely deposit waste in the limited space of the landfills.

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At Tuesday’s committee meeting, the council members voted to expand a discussion about the upcoming fee increase to include a broader perspective of the entire landfill fees issue at a future meeting.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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