Big Island Polls

Big Island Now poll No. 27 results: More than one solution needed to help extend life of West Hawai‘i landfill

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Big Island Now readers seem to agree that there’s likely no single solution for slowing down the timeline of the West Hawai‘i Sanitary Landfill reaching capacity.

The West Hawai’i Sanitary Landfill, the only remaining landfill on the Big Island, is forecast to reach capacity within the next 20 to 25 years. (File photo)

Of the 900 total votes in our most recent poll, which asked people to weigh in on the best way to extend the life of the Big Island’s only remaining landfill, all of the above was the most popular answer, garnering 274 votes, or 30%.

The West Hawai‘i landfill became the island’s only one after the Hilo Landfill closed three years ago. It only has about 20 to 25 years left before it can no longer be used to store rubbish.

The second most popular choice was creating more opportunities for the public to recycle plastics, metals, paper, paperboard and glass, which got 169 votes, or 18% of the vote. That was followed by expanding the landfill’s size with 123 votes, or 13%.

Offering curbside pick up by Hawai‘i County of recyclables and rubbish came in fourth with 84 votes, or 9%, and putting an islandwide ban on single-use plastics in place rounded out the top five responses with 66 votes, or 7%.


The County recently secured a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which will be dedicated to enhancing recycling infrastructure and waste management systems on the Big Island, specifically for a city-scale reusable food ware and refillable bottle system in Hilo.

Several readers also suggested encouraging more composting, which was not among the choices; however, 52 voters, or 5%, did choose the none of the above option.

One reader said bringing green waste to landfills is very climate unfriendly, costly and wasteful of space. There are many effective ways to compost greens at home, no matter where you live or the size of your hale (house).

Yes, people can compost at home, but another reader said they don’t want to live with the vermin it attracts. So if the County can’t help residents divert more of their green waste and expand services to their homes, it could at least expand days, hours and capacity to accept it. Perhaps more green waste-only transfer station sites could be created and food and compostable yard waste bags could be allowed for those without a pickup truck.


Wesley Sugai commented that most of what goes into a landfill is combustible — wood, plastic, paper, green waste, even baby diapers and kitchen garbage waste — when dried.

“Can we build a smaller plant like H-Power plant in Honolulu, or even ship our waste to be used there?” Sugai asked, referring to the Covanta Honolulu facility where up to 3,000 tons of municipal solid waste from around O‘ahu is incinerated each day and turned into electricity. “In Kaua‘i, the Kapa‘a transfer site has a great way of keeping waste out of the landfill by having a metal disposal area. Next to it is a household appliance disposal, then a used tire rack, an oil disposal area and finally a green waste area for mulch creation.”

Lloyd Pellisero called the options “kick the can down the road stuff,” and suggested in the long term, the issue could need to include a discussion about eminent domain. He also suggested an extreme high temperature burning facility that could also generate electricity and have a minimal impact on air quality, but that won’t eliminate all the trash that needs to go into the landfill.

He and another reader said the west side landfill could be expanded, but a new landfill in East Hawai‘i is needed.


“The government has failed the people and kicked the can down the road for so long they now consider that the norm,” Pellisero said. “Recycle is OK, but I read article after article that indicates that industry has been filled with bad actors that have just taken the money and sold trash to China and any other country that would take it. Didn’t recycle much, just shifted it to somewhere else. What’s changed?”

Here are the full results from last week’s poll:

  • All of the above: 274 (30%)
  • Create additional opportunities to the public for recycling plastics, metals, paper, paperboard and glass: 169 (18%)
  • Expand the landfill’s size: 123 (13%)
  • Offer curbside pick up by Hawai‘i County of recyclables and rubbish: 84 (9%)
  • Put in place an islandwide ban on single-use plastics: 66 (7%)
  • None of the above: 52 (5%)
  • Ban recyclables from entering the landfill: 42 (4%)
  • Require large companies and organizations to implement best recycling practices: 41 (4%)
  • Close the landfill and find a new space: 25 (2%)
  • Ban green waste from entering the landfill: 24 (2%)

Total votes: 900

“The County should have already been seriously thinking about alternatives to the landfill,” commented David Hill. “In addition to expanding recycling, they need to process waste not store it. They need to invest in processing options (biomass) and soon.”

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