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VOICES: Draft solid-waste management plan needs work

A public (online through Microsoft Teams) hearing is scheduled on June 17 (info at on Kaua‘i’s draft Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan. Comments are accepted at through July 19.

Here’s my comment: The ISWMP often ignores ‘aina.

The ISWMP seems designed in some particulars to make Kaua‘i the laughing stock of the first world. It would have made a village of 72,000 proud in 1962, but not since.

Now, for visitors in their thirties and forties from California, and overseas from Japan, who grew up with a recycling ethic and curbside collection, Kaua‘i is that “quaint” place which disdains those practice, and even inhibits reuse, in the third decade of the 21st century.

Curbside pickup of recyclables (bottles, cans, plastics) was overwhelmingly supported in a Kaua‘i poll about 10 years ago, and a 2011 pilot program (championed by then-Mayor Bernard Carvalho) was widely successful.

But the ISWMP consigns curbside recycling and its necessary concomitant, a materials recovery/recycling facility (MRF), to, well, the trash heap.

The MRF was included in the prior plan, and would likely be in operation now, selling some recovered resources and supplying local start-up businesses with inexpensive raw materials, had not siting issues for the new landfill delayed implementation. That’s no excuse to take a giant leap backwards.

Promoting recycling (as advocated by now-Mayor Kawakami in a 2018 interview) is not only the right way to live sustainably, but will supply local jobs in the new businesses and at the MRF, while teaching what living in harmony with the land means.

Instead, the mayor’s budget just approved by the council includes nothing for that, but $300,000 for a study of — get this! — burning trash. Whatever the technical process, that still leaves toxic residue and, since a significant waste stream has to be guaranteed for such a facility, actually interferes with recycling.

Even though the $300,000 was declared “encumbered” — a term normally applied when a contract has been or is imminently to be signed — Zero Waste Kaua‘i could not get details, or a scope of work, or a request for proposal, even from the Solid Waste Division, or from several councilpersons, all who denied seeing any description or documentation for that item. So, before reaching the issue of why any Hawaiian locality would want to hinder recycling, the secrecy suggests a boondoggle.

Curbside recycling and a MRF should be express goals in the ISWMP, and the plan should also encompass collection and composting of food and green waste, which helps combat global warming by reducing landfill methane emissions.

Within the plan’s 10-year term, the major agricultural industry on Kaua‘i may transition from testing of genetic variants and pesticides by global corporations to more land- and people-friendly crops and locally-owned agriculture.

There will then be an even increased need for local, low-cost, organic soil conditioners, which composting supplies. Currently, Kaua‘i’s facilities to handle compostable bags, dishes, cups and utensils are underutilized, while the main recycling of food waste is through a disorganized system which collects some commercial kitchens’ residue for pig farms. What a waste!

Also missing from the ISWMP is a goal to productively reuse construction and demolition debris. Our roads fall apart quickly, and being able to reuse the removed rock and stone and tar will lower the bewildering high cost of road construction on Kaua‘i and extend the life of our landfill.

We can and must do better than this.


Jed Somit is a resident of Kapa‘a.
Source: The Garden Island

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