Trash Talk Two
Second solid-waste forum presented the county's most recent strategy for addressing Maui's burgeoning "resources."
November 21, 2013
Dr. Janet Six & Editor Debra Lordan - Contributing Writer , Maui Weekly

A panel of experts provided new information about Maui County's current plan to deal with solid waste "resources."

The message was clear on Tuesday, Oct. 22, when Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, the "Godfather of Greening," told a packed house, "We're wiping our butts with irreplaceable habitats!" Senior Scientist Hershkowitz champions environmental responsibility all over the globe through the nonprofit Natural Resource Defense Council (NDRC), a non-governmental organization. He was referring to the use of non-renewable forests and precious tiger habitats in China to make toilet paper for the U.S. market. Article Photos Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist for the Natural Resource Defense Council, delivered an informative presentation with an international perspective. In his "Recycling, Composting and Waste to Energy: The Basics," he emphasized how every form of waste has a proper disposal route.

Held in 'Ike Le'a, the science building at the University of Hawai'i Maui College (UHMC), the second solid-waste forum proved a lively follow-up to the meeting held in September (see "Talkin' Trash" at Though the topic was essentially the same, this presentation featured different panelists--with the exception of Maui County Director of Environmental Management Kyle Ginoza. Joining Ginoza and Hershkowitz was Arun Sharma, president of Anageria Services Inc., the California-based company currently seeking to build a solid-waste management plant, or as Sharma refers to it, a resource recovery facility, at the Central Maui Landfill. Solid-waste expert Dr. Jennifer Chirico, executive director of the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui at UHMC, served as forum moderator.

After brief introductions, Ginoza presented the county's most recent strategy for addressing Maui's burgeoning solid waste concerns. The updated plan differed from the plan he presented in September in its strong emphasis on recycling. In this rendition, Maui would strive for 85 percent recycling with only contaminated, "unrecyclable" materials being either buried or processed into refuse-derived fuel (RDF) and burned for energy. This information came as a surprise to some audience members--many of whom were also in attendance at the September forum. This was a vast departure from Ginoza's previous presentation, where the discussion focused more on the generation of RDF to be burned as a coal replacement by the Maui Electric Company and/or Alexander & Baldwin, and less on producing liquid natural gas (LNG), a clean renewable energy source created by anaerobic digestion. Hershkowitz followed Ginoza, delivering an informative presentation with an international perspective. In his "Recycling, Composting and Waste to Energy: The Basics," he emphasized how every form of waste has a proper disposal route. According to Hershkowitz, "There is no waste in nature. We need to change cultural attitudes and expectations for the planet There is no 'away' to throw things anymore." Hershkowitz also spoke of the need for government policy and private investors to "encourage" the proper routing of all waste materials.

Sharma followed Hershkowitz, outlining how the process of anaerobic digestion and conversion of food, green waste and sludge would generate "renewable energy" in the form of LNG. Only contaminated, "unrecyclable" materials would be burned as RDFs. A slide shown early in his presentation read, "Dispelling the Disinformation: Anageria's proposed Maui Resource Recovery Facility is not a trash-burning facility as some would claim." This statement visibly rattled some attendees who have been closely following the county's original Request for Proposal for holistic solid waste management--many of whom have strong ties to ongoing recycling efforts. Bob and Kelly King, owners of Pacific Biodiesel, then cited the fact that Mayor Alan Arakawa had been touting this as a "waste-to-energy" plant and not a recovery center.

Director Ginoza was adamant that it was never a waste-to-energy plant. This comment caused one increasingly agitated woman in the audience to search for "waste to energy" on her smart phone. She exclaimed loudly that over 20 articles from The Maui News had come up with Mayor Arakawa using those exact words. In spite of the good intentions of the panel and the presentation of a plan that would step up recycling efforts on Maui, many in attendance were concerned by what seemed to many as a radical departure from previous statements made by the county. The bottom line is Anageria wants Maui County's recyclable waste, which they see as a valuable resource that they can profit from. After sorting out the plastic, paper, glass, metal, food and green waste, the resources will follow specific, proper disposal routes. Inorganic materials, such as plastic, glass and metal, will be recycled and repurposed, while organic items, such as wood, green waste and food scraps, will be digested anaerobically, producing LNG as an energy source. As Hershkowitz quickly pointed out, "Most municipal waste is not suitable for fuel. You can't burn glass and metal."

He went to great lengths to explain that any resource recovery center will have some materials deemed too contaminated to recycle. He said only these materials would be processed into RDFs to be burned on Maui and/or shipped for sale overseas. In conclusion, Hershkowitz told concerned attendees that one way to immediately reduce the amount of contaminated materials entering Maui's landfills is to follow the three-can plan and start the recovery process at the source--their own homes. By taking personal responsibility, separating our trash, and rinsing food and other waste from recyclable containers, he said we can reduce the amount of contaminated materials that cannot be recovered and must either be buried or burned.

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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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