UPDATE: The Hawaii County Council recently voted against a resolution that would have allowed Mayor Harry Kim's administration to pursue a new three-year contract for mulching service, as reported by West Hawaii Today. This decision was motivated by the desire for some type of compromise under the current 10-year contract with Hawaiian Earth Recycling.
Kim has indicated that he is open to a contract amendment to make sure mulching service isn't interrupted after the proposed June 30 cancelation date, but said anything more complicated could require a new request for proposals. In addition to questions about timing and contract terms, the county must also address its potential liability for reimbursement expenses. Hawaiian Earth Recycling has already spent $1.2 million on new equipment, as well as additional development costs, meaning they could ask for more than $4 million back.
Negotiations are expected to continue among elected officials and the company, with an official vote on the resolution scheduled for the council's next meeting.
- Hawaiian Earth Recycling has said it will seek reimbursement for more than $4 million in expenses if Hawaii County follows through on plans to terminate its 10-year contract with the company early. This would include the cost of engineering, permitting, bonds, attorney fees, consulting costs and equipment, as reported by the Hawaii Tribune Herald.
- The company currently processes yard waste and was set to begin construction on a $10.3 million composting facility for food scraps. County Mayor Harry Kim recently decided to terminate the contract by June 30 because it requires a throughput minimum from the county.
- The most pressing question is how to do this without disrupting yard waste service due to the tight timeframe for securing a new contract by July 1 and state regulations on storing mulch between operators. The Hawaii County Council will take up these issues at multiple committee hearings this week.
The planned composting facility would have been located next to the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill, which is nearing capacity and could have potentially stayed open for longer if more organic waste was diverted from the site. Previous reports said that local farmers and residents complained about the potential for odors and noise, though Kim recently said that wasn't a factor in his decision.
Regardless of the reasons behind this move, the resulting effects would be difficult for all involved. In addition to potential financial consequences for the government or the company, a contract termination would also create uncertainty for the future of organics diversion in the area. Hawaiian Earth Recycling was the sole bidder on the current contract and few other companies do similar work in the state. A planned waste-to-energy and anaerobic digestion facility on the other side of the island could potentially accept the intended material, though that would create additional transportation costs and emissions.
While composting facilities are seen as a lower risk option compared to other waste conversion technologies, local siting factors make each project unique. Without some form of state or local policy driver, it may be difficult to get enough material to meet a minimum delivery requirement at first as the diversion process can be complicated for businesses. Yet landfill space, especially on an island, also won't last forever and other solutions will eventually be needed.