Tuesday, March 25, 2008


DIMMER THAN A JUNKYARD DOG: Doug White at Poinography is talkin' trash about the possibility of neighbor islands shipping their trash to the mainland through Honolulu Harbor after a report saying an environmental assessment found that shipping O`ahu trash out to the U.S. Northwest did not pose any environmental problems.

Doug talks about the Big Island’s plans but he apparently has nothing to worry from Kaua`i because for the last 10 years the Kaua`i County Council and it’s mayors and Council have refused to even consider shipping out what we ship in- even though it could save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars... and would only make sense... especially since the alternatives are burning and burying it.

In 1998 we proposed the “send it back” solution in testimony to the Council about our opala overflow that has caused Kaua`i to build a Mount Mana by “ vertically expanding” the only landfill.

But Mayors Kusaka and Baptiste and Council Chair Kaipo Asing have refused to hear of it- then or now.

And now Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura won’t listen either. At last report, she agrees with them. When we again asked the council to look into it in 2002 after her return to public life it was pooh-poohed by Yukimura who said the idea might be “environmentally irresponsible” even though 99% of what would be sent out would be what was send in... if we use our already existing and unused “White Elephant” trash sorting facility to weed out weeds and recyclables.

But Kaua`i has already paid for two studies of trash management, all from the old-school HR Beck Company who keeps producing studies calling for “integrated solid waste management” which always seems to wind up burning and/or then burying our waste.. with a little recycling.

Last year a presentation was made to the council by one of those “Zero Waste” consultants (at their own expense) and the council ignored it.

There’s quite a few cutting edge consultants in that area at google... there are even communities, especially on the East Coast, who have gone “zero-waste”... for which 90-95% appears to be the physical limit... and 70-80% has been immediately achievable in some communities.

But despite requests to include studies of “ship it in, ship it out” for 10 years, the option has not even been considered by Beck, except in passing. There weren’t even definitions much less cost projections in the most recent Beck Report, undefined cost being cited as a detriment.

Siting a new landfill is impossible. Every proposal dies along with the political career of anyone who proposes to even look for a site at this point much less pick a site. People would take a drug rehab facility before a landfill in their area.

At Joann’s mayoral campaign kickoff in 1988 she said that her number one priority would be to “solve our solid waste crisis”. Yet today we have not done it and she left office when `Iniki created 20 years worth of trash.

Then the Kusaka Administration fired everyone and brought in Solid Waste Coordinator Troy Tanigawa who was given “protected” status as Dr Ray Chuan documented in the late 90’s.

He was so dim a bulb that Kusaka had to personally publicly assure the council that she would send him back to school... and she never did.

Seems Ray was more than prescient. Tanigawa is still on the job asking to gobble up more money for shoddy studies but concentrating on pleading with the State DOH to let him build the next story of his monument to Kaua`i consumerism, which blights the sacred west shoreline.

Right now Kaua`i puts all it’s trash in trucks and hauls it clear across the island to the furthest point west- 80 miles or more from the north shore. 70% of it is probably from around 50 miles away.

We pay tens of millions to maintaining the landfill. The cost alone of just opening another one could reportedly be $50 million or more. And then the operational costs increase exponentially because we have a “grandfathered” landfill right now where we don’t have to comply with some of the strict new rules for landfills.

The county has issued bonds last year once again (the first it was spent on perpetuating the current mess that Yukimura warned about in ’88) selling the bond to voters as being to “do something about our solid waste.”

Oh- by the way... there’s a new Council bill to spend some of the bond money on something else.... and there might just be a new bond money surprises before the election.

The mainland is eager to take our trash and is offering to do it for a fraction of what it’s costing us now.
What’s the hold up? We’ve asked for years and can’t heard..Being Kaua`i we don’t expect to get answers but.we’d love to hear for once what’s really wrong with the concept because the cost seems to be lower


Anonymous said...

No question the Solid Waste division at the County is dysfunctional, but the idea of shipping waste back to the lower 48 or over to H-Power (Chuan's other hobby horse) has always been a pig economically.

Far from making/saving money, it was one of the more expensive options before you even consider environmental issues.
You don't have to study something to death when right off the top you can see it's a major loser. Not to mention, shipping waste just to have in buried/burned somewhere else is an odd position for a Green to espouse. That waste isn't being turned into Soylent green in Oregon.

Put your pen to paper.

Cost of running a landfill on Kauai --about $60-75/ton. The $85 they throw around now includes the trucking to Kekaha IIRC.

H-Power's tipping fee -- $80+++ and not to mention they were and are at capacity and have no room even for Oahu's existing load. Something ol Ray always seemed to ignore. Must have been an inconvenient truth.

So it was neither possible to send garbage to H-power (no space) nor sensible cost wise vis a vis opening a new landfill here.

Tipping fees at mainland dumps are $30-40/ton. Now start figuring in the costs of:

1) trucking to a facility to bale/containerize/whatever.

2) The building/operating cost of such a facility. The "white elephant" is way too small. It was designed as a household goods castoff sorting facility, not a garbage handling facility. Just a WPA project for the construction industry done at the last second without much though. Par for the course for Kauai govt including Ms.Yukimura's.

3) Worst case ocean freight -- currently $6-7000/40 ft container which has a limit of 25 tons=50,000 lbs

$7000/25 tons = $280/ton.

Ouch!!!! makes no sense but it does give one a perspective.

Oahu is estimating $5 million for 100K tons or $50/ton, but the paper offered no details as to what that includes. If I were a Honolulu taxpayer, I'd want to see some hard figures before I believed Mufi on that one. Just where will dedicated garbage barges come from?

So best case (and probably bogus) is $50 ton ocean freight. $10-20/ton local handling here (maybe more given who'd run it). Maybe $5-10 freight/handing on that side. $35 tipping fee so you are already at $110/ton+.

Starting to see why even why RW Beck and our council can see past this one? Add to that NIMBY issues in port cities on the mainland. And ever rising freight costs.

Now I agree the latest RW Beck study was set up as a whitewash for an incinerator to bolster G&R. They pushed away any idea that didn't fit that Baptiste notion for sure. Of course, now that they have ethanol to save them, garbage doesn't look/smell quite so sweet.

Luckily, enough people pushed back against stacked deck approach that the plan was derailed.

As for NIMBY, 7 or more landfill sites were identified. The one on G&R land would impact virtually no one. The one up towards Wailua Falls would be no worse than a stinking tranfer facility near Nawiliwili. Siting the critical trash bulking facility will also have huge NIMBY fights. I'd take a landfill a mile or two away long before a garbage baling/storage facility within reasonable proximity to Nawiliwili. Can you imagine how much tourists would love parking in their cruise ship next to a garbage scow?

We definitely need to focus on recycling and reuse locally first. But if you look at our trash mix, there's still a lot of material that there really is no use for.

We'll need either a compost system, an incinerator or just another landfill to take that material.

And of course, a Council/Mayor not intimidated by the existing garbage hauler monopoly and their scion Council member. Or the Ag/developer lobby.

Andy Parx said...

Your numbers for shipping are arbitrary and way too high Anonymous- recent numbers are much lower. Ray never advocated incineration here or at H-Power nor have I certainly. And Ray didn’t even agree on shipping enough to advocate it.

The point is that the county doesn’t even know how much the true ship-it-out cost would be because it paid for a study that didn’t study it. Everything points to huge savings if real numbers are plugged in and all current expenses are counted, including the savings of not siting a new landfill at all.

And everyone acknowledges the current $85/ton is too low- and that’s without transportation. Numbers for actual cost thrown around at Council meetings by the administration are around twice that and it’s unclear how much of transportation and maintenance of transfer stations is included if any in that figure.

The white elephant is plenty big enough if we institute mandatory curbside and commercial recycling (like everywhere else in this country and most others) and use it for the final sort. And the actual ocean transportation and delivery to the landfill are included in the prices “advertised” by the various mainland landfill operations and all their permitting is complete on that end.

That leaves the only added cost for us in design and build of the storage and wrapping facility and that can probably be paid for just in the savings in gas and truck maintenance of going to Kekaha instead of centrally located Lihu`e. And those barges are going back empty now and there’s a very good possibility of contracting a low rate because of that (and some of the landfill companies have offered to include that cost in their proposals).

And no matter how “perfect” a location is for a new dump, no one is going to allow it in their town so none will ever be built. No one will even try anymore until our next Mayor tried and fails... again.

Anonymous said...

can you back up your assertion that shipping costs to the mainland are too high? Or does arbitrary only work in one direction? If you can't point to hard information, we'll just have to assume this is wishful thinking at best.

Ray very much advocated shipping to H-Power. I sat in the room while he did so.

$85 for a landfill is actually very high especially when you consider mainland landfills charge $35 ish and have to meet the same EPA regs. Google around, you'll see the range of tipping fees being charged.

The real point is, we will site a landfill and some will be pissed. But that's better than shipping to the mainland at a much higher cost.

I'll be very interested to see if you can come up with any substantial info.

Andy Parx said...

Anonymous-. Check with the C&C and Honolulu Council for the figures for shipping- it was reported in both papers - they have actual estimates from various companies and they were much lower that what we are paying- my memory is that they were around 50-60 depending on the dump and the services included, although shipping and wrapping was included. They were for Honolulu so there may be a little discrepancy for Kaua`i but probably not much. The problem is the county doesn’t know their own costs.

And whether 85 a ton is high or low comparatively to whatever it is the figure they charge. But the Beck study shows- and the DPW has said before the council- that our real costs run to $125 or more, and that was with gas at 60% less than it is today. I’m sure Council services can provide the specifics if DPW can’t or won’t for the public. We’re subsiding a lot of the actual cost out of the general fund according to both DPW and the Council.

Anonymous said...

I still think you are mostly hand waving to support an idea that you like in your gut without actually digging in to the details.

1) How can burning a bunch of fuel oil to move thousands of tons of garbage thousands of miles to then be landfilled elsewhere be something worthy of support at its base level? Especially to someone whipped up over the loss of oxygen generation of a dozen trees? Fuel oil isn't attar of roses. It's the worst of the worst for the environment in terms of transportation fuels.

2) How can our costs truly be $125/ton to operate a landfill on Kauai when mainland units charge just $35? Scale does help, but our costs are inflated.

Why do you see government manipulation of data when it doesn't fit your story but accept it blindly when it fits your meme?
Could it be that the $125 number is to make Baptiste's incinerator look more reasonable? Did the penny just drop?

3) Barges don't go back to the mainland "empty". First, they aren't barges, they are container ships. You can't simply dump garbage into the hold and then wave a wand to get it back out again. Google Matson's fleet.

Secondly, they take back the empty containers, so in fact, they are essentially full of empty containers. Now you are back to compressing/bailing garbage in water/air tight units. Not cheap.


see paragraph 8.

Here's another reference:

"No cost estimates were included in the study. In December 2005, Jim Hodge, the CEO of Honolulu-based Hawaiian Waste Systems, estimated that it would cost between $86 and $91 per ton to transport waste from Hilo the Roosevelt Landfill, but that was long before oil reached $100 per gallon."

from http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/articles/2008/03/23/local_news/local03.prt

If the cost was $90 in 2005, it will be higher now. Especially for small volumes from outer island.

4) Google Roosevelt landfill. You'll see that dozens of communities have taken this route and are shipping waste there. What's the plan when the Greens in Washington decide to surf out and block ships importing garbage to their area?

Or if the local jurisdictions put high fees on the imports? Or when the rest of the West coast decides to copy us and fills the landfill in just a few years?

Just a few things to think about....