ANALYSIS: ‘Ban’ on Trucking Rubbish to West Hawaii is a Myth

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This article is an addendum to a previous analysis, click here to read it: ANALYSIS: Six Myths About the County’s Waste Incineration Plan.

MYTH #7: The Council Banned Trucking East Hawaii Rubbish to West Hawaii.

Even a mayor’s aide evoked this one in comments on the first Six Myths, trying to deflate growing opposition to the administration’s plan to have a private company build an expensive incinerator to burn county rubbish in the name of “waste reduction.”

The so-called ban was enacted in 2012 by the Hawaii County Council in a fit of pique because Mayor Billy Kenoi OK’d a Department of Environmental Management study of trucking East Hawaii rubbish to West Hawaii earlier that year. (Disclosure: This writer was DEM deputy director at the time and helped prepare the study.)


Reacting in horror to even the thought of collecting information about the possibility, the Council added Section 20-51 to the Hawaii County Code titled, “Transportation of Materials to Landfill,” which says that all materials collected at certain transfer stations – Honomu, Hilo, Papaikou, Keaau, Pahoa, Kalapana, Glenwood, Mountain View and Volcano – shall go to the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill.

And it says that all materials collected at certain other transfer stations – Laupahoehoe, Paauilo, Honokaa, Waimea, Kaauhulu (Hawi), Puako, Kailua, Keauhou, Keei, Waiea, Milolii, Ocean View, Waiohinu and Pahala – shall be sent to Puuanahulu Sanitary Landfill.

In emergencies, the mayor can change the line-up, according to the ordinance, and that’s all it says.


Now note that the rubbish going to Puuanahulu from the first three transfer stations are all on the Big Island’s east side. Apparently it’s not all East Hawaii rubbish that the Council found objectionable.

So where does the notion come from that there is such a strong aversion to trucking East Hawaii rubbish to West Hawaii? Why has the administration apparently accepted it without question or public discussion?

Plenty of Big Island rubbish goes to Puuanahulu already, as ordained by the County Council. Are there complaints? Shouldn’t we know the issues West Hawaii has with continued hauling to Puuanahulu before the county signs a two- or three-decade-long contract with a ‘big waste’ company to burn the island’s rubbish for millions of dollars more per year?


Savings from rejecting the high-cost incinerator could be used to make Puuanahulu better, improve transfer stations island-wide, and pursue more recycling programs to reduce the amount of solid waste that would need to be trucked there.

The irony of using Myth #7 to bolster the argument for an incinerator is that, yes, the County Council must amend or delete the 2012 ordinance if it wants to save millions of dollars by trucking the island’s rubbish to Puuanahulu, as was pointed out. But the mayor’s own waste-reduction plan itself shifts waste now going to Puuanahulu back to Hilo, which also would require changing the same ordinance.

Hunter Bishop is a former deputy director of the Department of Environmental Management and former executive assistant to Mayor Billy Kenoi.

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