Big Island Rubbish: Enough To Go Around?

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The County of Hawaii and a private waste hauler could wind up competing for a limited amount of Big Island rubbish if both build new waste processing plants here.

BioEnergy Hawaii LLC, a subsidiary of Kona rubbish hauler Pacific Waste Inc., has been planning to build a waste processing facility in West Hawaii since filing a still-active EIS Preparation Notice for the project in 2008.

The Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii at Keahole Point was identified as a potential site for the project but other sites in West Hawaii are also being evaluated, said Guy Kaniho, general manager of Pacific Waste. Kaniho offered no time frame for the project but said it’s “moving forward.”

Meanwhile Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration on April 15 received eight submittals from vendors interested in building a “waste reduction” plant in Hilo that could handle 300 tons of rubbish per day.

The county told vendors in the Request For Proposals that it also “wishes” to get maximum benefit from the waste by producing “energy, soil amendments and/or reusable materials.”


The mayor’s plan would have the plant operating before he leaves office in 2016.

The county would guarantee the operator between 98,075 and 98,550 tons of waste per year for processing in the Hilo facility. But according to a 2011 study by the county Department of Environmental Management, in 2010 the county delivered just 63,450 tons to the South Hilo landfill and 103,000 tons to Kona.

Kenoi told the County Council in March that waste currently being dumped in West Hawaii would be diverted by truck to Hilo in order to reach the minimum guaranteed by the administration.

That reduction of rubbish in West Hawaii could raise the cost-per-ton for the county to dump there. The county’s contract with landfill operator Waste Management Inc. requires the county to pay a premium price – $69.90 per ton – when volume falls below 250 tons per day. It is currently about 283 tons per day.


Kaniho called Kenoi’s plan “ambitious” and said his own Kona-based company’s plan to build a waste-to-energy plant in West Hawaii would not be affected. “We have the feedstock,” Kaniho said. He wouldn’t say how much. According to the EIS notice, BioEnergy Hawaii’s plan is to process up to 400 tons of solid waste a day.

In 2009 the BioEnergy Hawaii plan got a boost from the state Legislature which authorized up to $100 million in special purpose revenue bonds to help the company develop its waste-to-energy facility. The authorization ends in June 2016.

BioEnergy Hawaii spokesman Clint Knox said two waste processing facilities on the island could generate competition for a limited amount of rubbish. “We’re looking at it closely,” he said.

Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd, who heads the Department of Environmental Management, said that Pacific Waste actually controls an “insufficient amount” of waste however and dismissed its potential to affect the county.


“Without (the waste stream) I don’t think they can move forward,” she said. “It shouldn’t affect the county’s plan.”

Kaniho declined to say how much Pacific Waste collects and hauls to Puuanahulu but said he’s working to increase his company’s share of commercial waste on the Big Island. He said Pacific Waste eventually would stop hauling its rubbish to Puuanahulu and start using it to fuel the BioEnergy Hawaii plant.

The next public step in the county’s process of selecting a firm to build a waste reduction facility in Hilo should come May 15 with the naming of three companies from among the eight submittals to prepare formal proposals for the project.

Disclosure: Hunter Bishop was formerly an executive assistant to Mayor Billy Kenoi and also deputy director of the Department of Environmental Management.

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