- Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim and Hawaiian Earth Recycling finalized an agreement last week to keep the company's existing 10-year contract in exchange for relocating a planned composting facility to a new site, as reported by West Hawaii Today.
- Hawaiian Earth Recycling agreed to freeze any cost increases for mulch production until the new facility is complete, which the county estimates will help save $1.5 million. In exchange, Kim rescinded a previous notice of contract termination.
- The new goal is to build the planned $10.4 million composting facility within the next three years, factoring in site selection and the environmental review process. The West Hawaii landfill in Puuanahulu has been mentioned as one option.
This announcement appears to resolve months of debate over siting the planned facility next to the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill near farms and residents that opposed the decision. Kim announced plans to amicably terminate the contract earlier this year, but the Hawaii County Council pushed back over concerns about financial liability and disrupting existing yard waste mulch service. The situation appeared to worsen earlier this month when the county formally withdrew environmental approval for the site though all involved are reportedly pleased that a compromise has been reached.
Now that the facility is back on track Hawaii's largest island will eventually have more options for processing food waste and that could potentially help preserve capacity at the South Hilo landfill. Though eventually much of the county's waste will be heading to the West Hawaii landfill, which has more capacity and will also be the site of a $50 million resource recovery facility. While the site's plans include an anaerobic digester the Hawaiian Earth Recycling compost project could serve different parts of the waste stream and the county might benefit from centralizing all of its operations.
The other benefit of this location is its distance from residential areas, a common challenge for composting facilities in particular. As seen recently with news about ongoing lawsuits around a Washington facility and plans for a new one in Illinois local residents can be resistant to hosting organics processing operations due to the odor factor. In addition to ensuring these facilities are properly designed and managed the industry has also been emphasizing the importance of community engagement in recent training to help avoid these situations when possible.