Should the city be able to burn some of the stuff you put in the blue bin?

Published: Jan. 25, 2018 at 3:07 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2018 at 1:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A controversial plan to burn recyclables at the city's H-Power Plant is being put on the back burner.

The Honolulu City Council's Public Works Committee voted to defer a resolution that would allow the city to divert recyclable materials it picks up at residences to the H-Power plant in Kapolei, where it would be burned to generate electricity.

"For the last several years it's cost us about $3 million to take (the recyclables) from the people's homes ... process it and send it to the mainland," said Lori Kahikina, director of the city Department of Environmental Services.

Kahikina said a worldwide slump in the commodity prices of recycled products has also cut city revenues from the program.

Another problem: The city is not collecting enough garbage for the HPower plant, forcing it to pay its contractor Covanta Energy between $1 million to $2 million a year in penalties.

A recent city audit concluded that had the city burned those recyclables at the H-Power plant during the past four years, it would have generated more than $29 million in additional electricity sales

"This is an area we know we can probably yield a lot more revenue or savings in and we're determined to make headway," said city Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga.

But environmentalists aren't on board

What's the point of recycling, they say, if those items are just going to sent to the incinerator.

Instead, they say, the city should be looking at more ways to reduce the amount of trash people produce.

"Reuse and reduction are ultimately where we need to be in the waste pyramid whereas incineration and land filling is at the very bottom," said Rafael Bergstrom, Oahu Chapter coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club said the city shouldn't go forward with this plan until a long-term waste management strategy for Oahu is completed.

A draft of that plan will be completed in November.

"The basis of our opposition is that it would be premature for the council to say we can go in one direction without all of the information," said Jodi Malinoski, Oahu Group coordinator for the Sierra Club.

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