On Sunday, Dec. 8, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) ran a full-page paid advertisement in The Maui News. In this ad, NRDC Senior Scientist Dr. Allen Hershkowitz presented the latest version of the NRDC/Maui County/Anaergia Services Inc. proposal for the county's Integrated Waste Conversion To Energy Project (IWCEP).
The initial proposal submitted by Anaergia included a so-called "dirty" Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Maui Recycling Group, Maui recycling businesses and many community members objected in part on the grounds that a "dirty" facility increases contamination, and thus, decreases marketability of recyclable commodities.
It now appears the NRDC/Maui County/Anaergia plan calls for a "single stream" or "clean" MRF. We are pleased that they have joined us in that preference, but we still contend that this represents a significant change in a major element of their original proposal.
Another major change is that there was no mention in the NRDC advertisement of Refuse Derived Fuel, which are, essentially, bricks of solid waste. This was a major component of the original proposal--Anaergia would take the dry portion of our waste stream and make solid waste bricks. The company would then sell them to be burned in incinerators, power plants or other industrial facilities. Concerned businesses and others objected.
One reason is that there is no market for this fuel on Maui. Another reason is that, whatever it is called, this material is garbage and burning it will produce an array of ecological and economic problems. These problems will occur wherever this fuel is burned. We can't avoid our environmental responsibilities just by shipping our garbage elsewhere. Now, NRDC suggests that perhaps we should landfill this portion of our waste stream. Needless to say, we do not agree.
Finally, the NRDC advertisement claims that our "household, noncommercial" recycling rate is an "abysmal" 1.7 percent. What they are referring to is the production from our Community Recycling Dropbox Program. However, the drop box program is only one of 14 programs tracked and/or overseen by the county. When taken together, these 14 programs, which involve a mix of commercial and residential waste streams, tell a different story. Overall, our "landfill diversion rate"--the standard measurement throughout the world--is 42.9 percent. This is the best rate in Hawai'i and nearly a full 10 points higher than the national rate of 33 percent.
To view the official County of Maui Landfill Diversion report, go to www.zerowastemaui.net/officialreport.
One of the best ways to immediately increase our recycling production from the residential sector is to implement the county plan for island-wide curbside recycling. This plan is recommended by the County of Maui Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan. It has been approved by the County Council and the state Department of Health. It has been proven in a successful pilot project.
To see how effective the curbside pilot project was, and how ready-to-go the island-wide plan is, go to www.zerowastemaui.net/curbside.html. Strangely, despite their public pronouncements regarding their support of recycling, the Arakawa administration has refused to fund this program in their Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
The NRDC/Maui County/Ana-ergial plan requires a 20-year commitment by the county--commitment that will allow Anaergia to raise the tipping fees it charges the county and other "customers" of its facility.
Lately, it seems that every time we hear from this plan's backers, it has changed. Most of the changes are significant and add, modify or remove major components.
We continue to hope that our County Council will recognize that the NRDC/Maui County/Anaergial proposal has "morphed" into something quite different than originally presented. In addition, it has not been committed to writing and has not been made available to the public or to the council. With this in mind, we ask that the council's Committee on Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs reject the resolution supporting this plan as soon as possible.
Let's focus on island-wide curbside recycling, which will be a major component of any integrated plan, and keep moving forward, not sideways.