Recycling plan sought for isle energy project

October 25, 2013

By EILEEN CHAO - Staff Writer ( , The Maui News

WAILUKU - Anaergia Services, the California-based company selected by the county to create and operate a waste conversion facility at the Central Maui Landfill, pledged Tuesday to make an effort to incorporate more recycling into project plans.

"By improving our design and execution, we can increase recycling and reduce the residuals that are left over," Anaergia President Arun Sharma said at a panel community discussion, "Talkin' Trash: Part Two," hosted Tuesday night at the University of Hawaii Maui College by the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui and other groups. Instead of being able to extract and ship only about 11 percent of the county's waste stream to the Mainland to be processed as recyclables, the company would be able to extract close to 20 percent, Sharma said.

"Based on talks with the community and (the Natural Resources Defense Council), they (Anaergia) want to harvest more of the recyclable component," county Department of Environmental Management Director Kyle Ginoza said. He added that the company also is contemplating doing public education programs to ask residents to separate recyclables into a blue bag to make harvesting the recyclables easier, which would further boost the amount of recyclables recovered. Instead of having residents drop off their recyclables at county drop boxes, they would put plastics, cardboard, paper and other dry recyclable materials into a blue bag and put it into the trash can. That way, the recyclables will be much cleaner when they arrive at the facility, Ginoza said.

"From a county standpoint, nothing really changes because we're still going to pick up that one can," Ginoza said. The public education program and marketing of the blue bags will all be Anaergia's efforts, he said. Company officials are still developing the blue bag plan, Sharma said, and it would ultimately be contingent upon the Maui County Council's approval.

Boosting the percentage of trash that is recycled "isn't a major change to the plan," Sharma said Tuesday.

"The basic design and proposal is the same as before. It's just the balances that change - how much of the waste stream we can recycle. This is a 20-year project. In that time, it will continue to change."

What's left over after the recyclables are extracted will be separated into organic and inorganic waste. The organic waste, which includes food or green waste, will mix with sewage sludge and, through an anaerobic digester, be converted to liquefied natural gas and compost. The inorganic waste, or whatever else is left over, will be shredded and made into refuse-derived fuel blocks, which will be sold and likely burned as a coal replacement.

Sharma added that while increasing the materials shipped off-island to be recycled may end up costing Anaergia more money than if it were to process and sell it locally as refuse-derived fuel, the company "is committed to providing savings to the county."

The proposed project would create 150 construction jobs and 20 to 40 permanent jobs, county officials said.

"There's no ecological basis to oppose this plan, NRDC supports it, and we're known as the toughest guys in the business," said NRDC senior scientist Allen Hershkowitz, who has more than 35 years of experience in waste management. "The plan changed for the better. People should be celebrating this victory. Eighty percent of what's coming into that facility will be diverted for something beneficial, either for recycling, composting or gas recovery."

The remaining 20 percent will be made into the refuse-derived fuel and sold as a coal replacement, which Hershkowitz said was better than the alternative of putting it in a landfill.

But some business owners say that Anaergia threatens to displace longtime local businesses, and now that the project has changed from a waste-to-energy project, it should be put back out to bid.

"It (the project) keeps morphing, we don't know what they're doing because they keep changing their story," said Kelly King, vice president of Pacific Biodiesel, which has been diverting fats, oils and grease from the landfill to produce biodiesel fuel for 17 years.

King said hers and other companies, such as Maui EKO Compost, which is contracted by the county to divert green waste and turn it into a compost, would be displaced and likely put out of business if Anaergia were to become established on Maui.

"This will put several companies out of business, we (Pacific Biodiesel) will just have to move, but others like Maui EKO Compost will be put out of business, we know that for sure," King said.

Maui EKO Compost President Tom Pawlish said he was concerned because "what we're taking in now would go to Anaergia." He said that, as of Wednesday afternoon, Anaergia had not reached out to him to discuss any partnership.

Ginoza encouraged existing businesses to partner with Anaergia, which may not need resources like fats, oils and grease, and company officials have said they are willing to work with local companies that already use the resources.

"Anaergia has reached out to local businesses like Pacific Biodiesel to look for opportunities for collaboration," Sharma said in a statement. "We are committed to working with them to the maximum extent possible."

King acknowledged that she had met with Sharma and discussed a potential partnership, but "we haven't seen anything in writing." She and others advocated the project being put back out to bid because the project is no longer a waste-to-energy, but a recycling project.

"You can call it what you want. I tried to call it a waste conversion instead because the term waste-to-energy is typically an incinerator," Ginoza said. "If we called it a recycling project, the recycling puritans would say no, we're also creating fuel. It's a multi-input, multi-output process, but I didn't want to specify every input and output because that would become cumbersome."

Ginoza said that the project, at least from the county's perspective, has not changed. There would be no increased costs. There are no plans for the county to administer multiple waste streams or a curbside recycling plan, although it is up to the County Council to appropriate funds for such a plan. Even if a curbside recycling plan were approved, Ginoza said he "doesn't see how" that would warrant putting the project back out to bid.

"I've had people ask, 'If something is successful, why don't you keep it going?' '' Ginoza said, referring to existing companies like Pacific Biodiesel and Maui EKO Compost. "That's just the unfortunate thing about dealing with government. We try to get the lowest cost for our taxpayers so we have to put it out to bid. It's not that past performance has caused you not to get the job, but we have to think about cost and other factors, and this (Anaergia proposal) resulted in a cheaper price than what we were doing in the past."

The county selected Anaergia in April from a pool of 20 bidders to build a $100 million-plus facility on county land near the Central Maui Landfill. The deal is still being negotiated and is contingent upon the County Council's approval. The private entity would be responsible for the entire start-up cost but would collect from the county $68 per ton for solid waste disposal; $76 per ton for sewage sludge; $100 per ton for fats, oils and grease; and $29 per ton for segregated green waste.

The county currently pays $80 per ton for sewage sludge, which includes fats, oils and grease, and $30 for green waste.

* This article includes a clarification from the original published on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013.

Anaergia Services will be able to extract 20 percent from the total waste stream to be shipped to the Mainland for recycling.

Maui's total waste is composed of about 30 percent recyclables, so Anaergia will be extracting 20 percent and leaving the residual 10 percent, which may be small scraps that are too difficult to extract. If residents separated their recyclables out and put them in the proposed blue bags before throwing them in the trash can, Anaergia would be able to get a much higher level of recycling, company officials said.

Anaergia officials wanted to clarify this point in the story.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at

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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.

This sad story is that it is happening everywhere - in homes, offices, public buildings, backyards and supermarkets. Major US institurions, incuding the Defense Department contribute more than their fair share as do the smallest entrepreneurial elements of the US business community. It is happening literally in front of our eyes, every day. It's getting worse, not better, despite decades of attention. Sadly, it seems that throwing packaging "away" is still a huge part of American culture. MORE

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