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Tour de Garbage on the island of Oʻahu

    Tour de Garbage

1.7 million tons is the total amount of solid waste annually generated from the 800,000 residents and 1.8 million tourists on Oʻahu. The collected waste is (1) recycled, (2) incinerated at H-POWER, or (3) buried in a landfill (DES, 2005). The geographical isolation and small island footprint are inescapable limitations in developing solutions to manage its growing solid waste disposal problem. In September 2009, the state Land Use Commission (LUC) voted in favor of a motion to extend the Waimānalo Gulch Sanitary landfill’s (WGSL) special use permit (LUC, 2009). Against the will of Leeward Oʻahu community members, the operation has been extended until 31 July 2012, provided that only ash and residue from H-POWER be allowed to be disposed thereafter (Reyes, 2009a).

Present Status of Garbage Disposal Methods in Oʻahu
At the beginning of the 20th century, garbage in the islands were disposed directly into wetlands (DES, 2005); however, increased environmental regulations, like the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and subsequent amendments, have led to the development of the current Oʻahu waste management disposal system. Municipal waste is collected twice a week from 96 gallon-sized trash containers—90% of that waste (~700,000 tons/year) is incinerated at the H-POWER plant facility in Kapolei, which produces electrical energy. Collected unusable waste is disposed directly into WGSL (~400,000 tons/year) along with residual ash from incineration. Recycling usable waste accounts to ~600,000 tons/year (CCH, 2006). As an added incentive to promote recycling, the Hawaii Beverage Container Deposit Program was launched in 2005 that places a 5₵ redeemable deposit on each beverage container (State of Hawaiʻi, 2002).

The Leeward Coast carries the entire burden as host to the only two landfills—PVT Land Company landfill in Nānākuli (PVTL), and WGSL located near Ko Olina Resort & Marina—permitted to service all the industrial and municipal solid waste generated, respectively. The previous permit issued by LUC was to close WGSL in 2008; the special use permit extended that operation for another three years. No statistics are publically available detailing WGSL void capacity, however, a set-2008 closure deadline maybe a harbinger that it is nearing maximum landfill life expectancy.

Policy Options for Waste Reduction
Waste Strategy. Policy makers need to develop a comprehensive waste strategy to increase the sustainability and improve waste management methods. Steps have been taken by the state in quantifying waste flows and characterizing solid waste generation (CCH, 2006). Aims to “increase recycling, reuse and waste reduction strategies” have been penned in the Hawaiʻi 2050 Sustainability Plan (Goal 3, Strategic Action 3); however, there is no framework which clearly defines desired targets to address the landfill crisis and rising public concern.

Find a new landfill. Rep. John M. Mizuno introduced HB2221 in January, 2010 proposing to halt the development and/or expansion of any new or existing private solid waste land on Leeward Oʻahu (from Kaʻena Point to Waimānalo Gluch). The proposed command-and-control mechanism leaves open the possibility to build a new facility at any other location on the island, though constructing a new landfill would still require at least 200 acres of land (this is the size WGSL). Also, the state should consider upgrading WGSL landfill infrastructure, such as installing methane capturing technology for energy-generation and other cost-saving technologies, which could be feasible to implement.

Landfill tax. A tax to the consumer and/or commercial level or a possible increase in taxes and fees on municipal garbage pick-up is another option. In the short-run, it could minimize output. Still, this may not be a favorable long-term solution. Another issue would be how the government should spend the windfall monies.

Incentives. Creating incentives for consumers and commercial entities to minimize waste without the burden of taxing is another avenue that should be explored. The 2006 characterization study revealed that residential and commercial waste make up 22% and 62% of total generated waste, respectively (CCH, 2006). Commercial activities generate the most waste. State laws targeting these commercials activities in developing comprehensive recycling programs to educate, promote and provide access to environmentally favorable waste disposal methods are necessary. By providing incentives like tax-credits, awarding non-fossil fuel subsidies, or giving recycling credits for compliance are possible.

Waste-Energy Schemes. WGSL is proposed to cease accepting more refuge in 2012 as long as it meets ten specific conditions; one in particular is to upgrade the current H-POWER incineration capacity. Investing in proven breakthrough technologies is necessary, such as increased recycling, resource reutilization, trash to fertilizer/bio-energy, and upgrading or building another H-POWER plant.

Exporting Trash. The city and county of Honolulu has contracted a company to ship a maximum of 100,000 tons of trash to the mainland at a cost of $100/ton (Reyes, 2009b). Questions of cost must be considered in assessing the long-run feasibility (those numbers were not disclosed).

The expanding population and growth on Oahu is expected to continue. Solid waste generation is undesirable but inevitable by-product of increased human presence. It is necessary to remain transparent and work closely with the public, industry, and academia, to effectively manage and extend the life of our waste disposal system. State laws (command-and-control), landfill tax, subsidies/credits, cap-and-trade mechanisms can prompt behavior changes, and lead to minimized waste generation. Collective progressive changes to encourage reduce, reuse, and recover waste would abate current disposal problems for municipal solid waste on Oʻahu.

    References Cited

City and County of Honolulu (2006) Final Report: 2006 Waste Characterization Study. Published: April 2007. Prepared by R. W. Beck, Inc.
Department of Environmental Services (2005?) Waste Management and Recylcing PowerPoint.
Land Use Commission of the State of Hawaiʻi, Docket NO. SP09-403 (2009)
Reyes, B. J. (2009a). “Landfill to stay open until 2012: A state commission gives the city time to find options for the Leeward Oahu site”. Honolulu Star Bulletin, Posted: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sept. 25, 2009.
Reyes, B. J. (2009b). “Shipping out: Hawaiian Waste Systems will start processing and packing up trash to ship to the mainland.” Honolulu Star Bulletin, Posted: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sept. 26, 2009.
State of Hawaiʻi, HRS §342G-109 per Act 176 (2002)
U.S Congress, 42 U.S.C. §6901 et seq. (1976) summarized at: