A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
APRIL 2, 2015
By JEFF STARK
ZERO WASTE CAMAPAIGN MAUI

In the March 22nd edition of the Maui News, Karl Bossert, the local Anaergia representative gave his "Viewpoint" entitled: "Anaergia says landfill, energy crop projects workable, nature friendly." This was in response to a earlier Viewpoint from Doug McLeod, former Maui County Energy Coordinator.

Mr. Bossert did not provide any specific details that would make Anaergia's statement believeable. 15 months after the "Agreement" establishing the County/Anaergea project was signed they either have not decided what to do or they are not willing to reveal it.

For example, with regard to the refuse-derived fuel, who is the supposed buyer is for this material? Bossert does not identify a purchaser. Instead he makes general statements "The "clean-engineered solid fuel" is produced from the materials after the recovery of recyclables and organic materials. This type of fuel is largely renewable and has uses and markets on and off the island. It will be designed to meet EPA standards." This product would be made from the materials that will be left over after the sorting of recyclables in the facility Anaergia proposes to build. For nearly two years Anaergia has been reporting that they are "…in discussions with prospective buyers." They have not identified these prospects.

Most knowledgeable observers believe there are no buyers for this type of material in Hawaii. That means that if they make this product it will probably have to be shipped to buyers outside the US. Or, according to Anaergia, it could also be landfilled.

Bossert says "The solid fuel . . . has uses and markets on and off the islands." We ask: How? What uses and markets have been identified and/or confirmed?

Bossert says: "If used on island, (the solid fuel will) . . . reduce shipping of coal . . . " How? The only significant amount of coal burned on Maui is used to supplement the bagasse that HC&S burns in its Puunene facility. Why would HC&S choose to do this?

Is Aenergia simply posing hypotheticals which have no relationship to reality?

The County/Anaergia plan gives us three options for managing unrecyclables. Make fuel out of garbage and burn it here. Make fuel out of garbage and burn it somewhere else. Or, landfill the material. Are those the options this community wants? Unlikely. A true recycling system will produce environmental benefits, including reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. It will also provide jobs -professional jobs, and it will stimulate economic growth. Instead of working to disable our local recycling community Anaergia could work to develop community support by listening to Mauians, and answering their questions.

Proponents of the County/Anaergia plan have been unable or unwilling to answer questions when it relates to providing more details about their plan. For example, will they build what is known as a "dirty MRF" - a facility to sort commingled recyclables? Or will they install a "clean MRF," which receives source separated recyclables, as was the case in the now cancelled Curbside Pilot Recycling Project. The MRF question is an important issue since the quality of the material from a dirty MRF is markedly less valuable than from a clean facility. In the global commodity market our recyclables must compete with materials from other locales. If the materials are contaminated, recyclables have poor marketability. The plan also proposes composting the digestate from the anaerobic digestion facility. This plan would have similar issues.

Anaergia is a multi-national with extensive experience in anaerobic digestion programs throughout Europe. We have asked, in print, on the radio, and in face-to-face meetings, to give us details on their recycling experience. This is important because Anaergia will be responsible for the recycling component of their plan. They have not been forthcoming with information about their recycling experience. We can find no detailed information about their recycling experience on their websites. So far we have no information about how they plan to achieve a landfill diversion rate of 85%.

There are additional questions which relate to County management of the County/Anaergia plan. Personnel actions in the Recycling Section have resulted in the County losing the services of several long-term professional employees. Did these personnel lose their jobs because they raised many of the same questions we have?

It is important to note that because of these and other persistent questions the County Council has initiated a "Performance Audit" of the Department. The date for completion of the Audit is late November. Doesn't it make sense to "freeze" the County/Anaergia project until the Audit is competed?

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How crazy is it that the US landfills $11.4 billion in recyclable packaging materials every year? Plenty crazy. From cardboard shoe boxes to plastic detergent bottles, from Styrofoam fast food containers to cardboard egg cartons, from metals to those ubiquitous PET water bottles, our landfills are filling up with recoverable, recyclable packaging materials while driving up the cost of virtually everything we buy.

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