Recycling advocates experiencing deva ju

Maui’s longtime recycling advocates are feeling like they have seen it all before. And they have. Mayor Alan Arakawa’s plan to deal with Maui’s solid waste issues is a dead ringer for a plan we first saw 25 years ago. As a matter of fact, it was prepared by the same Washington state engineering/consulting firm – Gershman, Brickner & Bratton. This plan appears to have the support of Arakawa and some members of the County Council.

Originally retained during the tenure of Mayor Hannibal Tavares, GB&B presented the mayor and County Council of that time with a solid recommendation for a waste-to-energy program. Under this plan, the county would invest in a municipal solid waste incinerator, similar to HPOWER on Oahu. Lip service was given to source reduction, reuse and recycling programs but it was clear that, if implemented, the GB&B plan would leave Maui with no viable option to an expensive and environmentally questionable incinerator. Fortunately, this plan was never implemented because citizens interested in environmental progress asked some timely and provocative questions. From this came, eventually, a repudiation of the GB&B/Tavares plan by the County Council.

Now, decades later, it is deja vu all over again as we ask virtually the same questions:

* Arakawa said in his State of the County address that a waste-to-energy facility would pull out the recyclables first. What specific recyclables is he referring to? Metals? Paper? Plastic? Glass? Green waste? Or does he plan on burning some or all of these recyclables for energy? Is he going to incinerate all the yard trimmings and green waste for energy, and if so, what will the community do for compost?

* The mayor’s proposed budget does not include expanding curbside recycling despite his saying, in his first State of the County address, that we should take curbside recycling countywide and that he would provide this service for our community. Why has he gone back on his promise?

* What experience do members of the waste-to-energy request for proposals committee have in reviewing WTE proposals, and who, specifically, is on that committee?

We respect the fact that the Arakawa administration has moved forward enough to develop a draft plan. We look forward to working to make sure the answers to the questions above will assure all residents that there is still no place for a municipal solid waste incinerator on Maui.

* Kainoa Horcajo is the president of the Maui Recycling Group, a tax-exempt organization.