Mayor Billy Kenoi has a plan to take out the trash.
Kenoi told the County Council on Tuesday he will soon begin to pursue a waste-elimination project to address the Hilo landfill’s capacity problems. That could include a waste-to-energy incinerator, an idea the council rejected in 2008 under a previous administration.
But Kenoi said he doesn’t intend to pursue any particular technology, an approach that appeared to receive the full support of the council members.
“We want to cast a wide net and look at all options for waste-reduction technology,” he said.
Former Mayor Harry Kim had proposed a $125 million waste-to-energy facility, known as the Wheelabrator. The council killed that proposal over cost concerns.
None of the nine council members criticized Kenoi’s approach, and most praised his plan, which includes issuing a request for qualifications March 3 and signing a contract in April 2015.
“This should have been done in the past, too,” said Council Chair J Yoshimoto, who served on the council in 2008.
“I will do everything I can to support the process,” he added.
Kenoi said consuming waste is the best option for the county given opposition to trucking garbage to the West Hawaii landfill and the high cost of expanding the Hilo dump, which is expected to be full in about four years.
Without any particular technology being proposed, cost estimates remained hard to pin down.
Kenoi said he is open to any funding arrangement, including private financing. But, except for stating that waste elimination would be much cheaper than expanding the landfill or building a new one, he did not indicate what the cost might be for taxpayers.
Bobby Jean Leithead Todd, county Environmental Management director, told the Tribune-Herald that operational costs could be covered through the sale of energy, fuel or other material produced as a byproduct.
Such revenue might also help cover capital costs, though it remains to be seen how far that money will go, she said.
Kenoi said the facility would need to consume up to 300 tons of garbage per day.
That’s more than the Hilo landfill receives. To reach that mark, six transfer stations that send trash to the West Hawaii landfill would be rededicated to the facility.
Those stations are mostly located in Ka‘u and along the Hamakua Coast.
It has been suggested that 500 tons of garbage would have to be consumed daily to make such a facility pay for itself.
“We don’t have 500 tons,” Leithead Todd said.
But, she said, such a project is still expected to be a win for taxpayers by avoiding further landfill expansion.
Kenoi pegged the cost of a new Hilo landfill at $222 million.
Any proposals would have to involve technology that has been implemented for at least three years, Kenoi said.
“We want to see that your technology is proven,” he said.
Kenoi also told the council, meeting as the Committee on Environmental Management, that any waste-reduction facility would not consume recyclables or green waste.
It could also require additional sorting, which may lead to more materials being diverted for recycling, he said.
Solid Waste Director Greg Goodale told the council that additional sorting might lead to as much as 80 percent of the waste being diverted.
Goodale couldn’t be reached for comment after the meeting, and it’s unclear if such figures could make it difficult for the county to meet its 300-tons-per-day target.
Kenoi dismissed the figure as inaccurate and Leithead Todd said she believed it would only apply to anaerobic digestion. Incineration, gasification, and bio-refining are other options for waste reduction, she said.
Kenoi said any facility would likely be built at the Hilo landfill.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.