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League of Women Voters of Hawaii

February, 1974


Hawaii has about 3,000 tons per day of municipal solid wastes to handle -- over 80% of that on Oahu. This does not include over 10 million tons per year of agricultural wastes, and wastes from some military sources.


Nearly all disposal sites in the State are unsafe, unsanitary, breeders of vermin, polluters of the air, the water and the land.

Correcting this situation will require a great deal of money.

In December 1972, The Hawaii State Plan for Solid Waste Recycling reported that the counties were spending over $5 million per year on solid waste handling and disposal. By December 1973 the figure had grown to over $7 million. By 1988 it is estimated that the counties will be spending $20 million per year.

This is a great deal of tax money spent to burn or bury materials that could be put to use. Sale of usable materials could offset the cost of providing a necessary service.


Metals can be made into new products. Clean paper & cardboard can be made into new paper and paper products. Glass can be made into new glass, glass wool, ceramic tiles; used in concrete or as grit for chickens. Organics (all burnable trash such as food, yard trimmings, paper, plastic, manure, sewage sludge, crop wastes) can be used as compost for the soil, food for animals, or changed into energy. It can be burned for power or converted to oil or gas. One ton of mixed refuse will produce more than one barrel of oil.


James Cannon reports in the Nov. '73 issue of Environment that it takes less fuel to process scrap steel, aluminum, copper and glass than it does to produce these substances from raw materials.

He says, "If all the steel added to garbage heaps in 1970 had been recycled into new steel, there would have accrued an energy savings equivalent to the energy released from burning 16.4 million tons of coal. This is enough fuel to run eight large (1000 megawatt) power plants for a fullyear."

That is about 10 times the electrical generating capacity in the entire State of Hawaii.


Technical problems

Collection, shipping, separation and other handling costs are high.

Institutional problems

PRICES FAVOR RAW MATERIALS -- because users of raw materials do not pay the full environmental costs of processing, manufacturing or disposing of their products. Those who use scrap materials get no credit for removing materials from the waste stream, conserving natural resources and generally creating less pollution. -- because policies on mining and lumbering on federal lands work against the announced national policy of resource recovery.

TAXES FAVOR RAW MATERIALS -- by capital gains treatment for timber. -- by recapture of mineral exploration and development costs. -- by depletion allowances.

SHIPPING RATES & SERVICE IMPEDE SALVAGING -- by charging higher rates for scrap material. -- by limiting the market. -- by making delivery dates unreliable.

PURCHASING SPECIFICATIONS BASED ON MATERIAL NOT PERFORMANCE Labelling "virgin fibers only", "all new material", "used oil", "reprocessed wool" hinders recycling.

USDA SUBSIDIES FOR LIME AND INORGANIC FERTILIZERS make compost less competitive than it might be.

In Hawaii, recycling is difficult because of transportation costs and quantities of waste that are too small to support a manufacturing process.

Recycling is thought to be more expensive than present solid waste disposal. However, prices of scrap materials have risen so dramatically in the past year that dealers have not been able to supply both foreign and domestic markets.


According to The States' Roles in Solid Waste Management, the report of a task force created by the Council of State Governments, many local governments underestimate the cost of solid waste services by not including such items as the following:

  1. Administrative office and equipment costs when located with or used by other governmental units.

  2. Operations equipment, facilities or labor costs when used partially by other governmental units.

  3. Administrative and managerial labor costs when a single manager functions in more than one capacity or for more than one department.

  4. Property taxes lost when public land is used for a municipal function.

  5. Allocation of tax or service fee collection costs related to that portion of the budget taken up by the collection and disposal operations.

  6. Allocation of personnel and property insurance costs.

  7. Cost of utilities if some are municipally provided.

  8. Cost of facility and equipment depreciation.

  9. Cost of facility and equipment repairs, primarily the costs of major renovations or overhauls.

  10. Financing costs, especially interest and other financing service charges.

There are many forces today demanding reassessment of taxation and land use policies to reflect new environmental and social considerations. In 1972 the Environ mental Protection Agency did not dare recommend to the President that tax benefits be taken away from big natural resource-using industries in order to stimulate recycling. They chose to recommend tax benefits for recycling industries as more politically feasible -- but no action was taken.

Prices of scrap materials have risen dramatically in the past year. Perhaps tax incentives are not so important now. Perhaps the current energy crisis will give the nation the courage to change tax policies now that we know shortages cause serious disruptions. In one way or another, in order to assure that wastes will be routed into the production stream, these materials need priority treatment.

On the national level, the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Maritime Commission must have policies reflecting such priorities.

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission should be aware of its role affecting materials flow.

The State of Hawaii could stimulate recycling, especially for the neighbor islands, by eliminating State Wharfage Charges on shipments of scrap materials. The Recycling Plan states that the Dept. of Transportation es timates the State would only lose about $12,000 per year by dropping this charge.


First, there could be a formal declaration of State policy favoring conservation and reuse of resources.

To implement such a policy, The Hawaii State Plan for Solid Waste Recycling made these recommendations:

  1. State land should be set aside somewhere near downtown Honolulu as a centralized "Recycling Park", the land to be leased out to industry for recycling purposes only, and its use to be controlled so as to be compatible with its surroundings. This would be an incentive for recycling industries to cluster together so as to promote centralized segregation. Location of recycling industries near the major sources of waste and port facilities would reduce the transportation costs.

  2. The counties should consider announcing a subsidy, to be funded out of County operating funds, to all new recycling industries for at least the first year of their operation -- and that would reflect the cost to the counties to otherwise dispose of their wastes.

  3. The counties should implement user charges to finance their solid waste collection and disposal systems. This would help finance the capital and operating costs of improved solid waste handling, and would also be a disincentive for household wastefulness.

  4. Local industry should form task forces to study feasibility of recycling specific materials. For example, automobile tire dealers might study waste rubber recycling. 5. The State should maintain a continuing program of recycling research and promotion, including the constant updating of the State's solid waste inventory and an improved dialogue with industry.

  5. The State should consider a tax credit to industry for the construction of pilot plants demonstrating new and experimental processes for recycling, as certified by the Department of Health.

In the year since the Hawaii State Plan was published, there has been no visible action on any of these proposals.


The counties could each declare a policy to work toward resource recovery. They could encourage private industry to devise ways to use materials from the waste stream in place of imported materials. They could provide land for temporary storage of materials for which there is a market -- such as newspapers and scrap metals. They could offer containers for voluntary separation at disposal sites used by the public. They could provide seed money to experiment with new ventures as conditions change.

Most importantly, the counties must honor the public trust and operate landfills in a perfectly safe and sanitary manner so that future use of the land is not compromised.


Other states are looking to new structures to accomplish resource recovery . . .

Connecticut has a solid waste management plan which is a pioneering effort to apply the technical, managerial and financial skills of private business to the problem. Goals of the plan are: maximum resource recovery and minimun environmental impact, maximum benefits at least user cost -- using private industry wherever possible, and social and political feasibility.

To implement the plan, Connecticut has established a Resources Recovery Authority charged with providing disposal services to municipalities; marketing recovered products: condemning land under certain circumstances; and contracting with municipalities to receive and process their waste. The Authority has no regulatory powers and, like a business, must be basically self-sufficient -- with revenues from user fees and sales of materials covering all expenses, including debt service -- although the State does assume the ultimate risk if the Authority's expenses exceed its revenues.

As the value of materials in the solid waste stream rises, more people will be vying for control of these resources. Government must act:

  • to protect the land and life support system.

  • to assure provision of an essential sanitation service.

  • to assure equitable access to valuable materials.

  • to assure the most frugal use of public money.

Government has these responsibilities to the public, but government does not have adequate business expertise to assess rapidly changing markets and technologies. The business community has better technical and managerial skills, but the profit motive cannot be the controlling factor in matters affecting the health and safety of the people, protection of the environment, conservation of resources, and use of public funds.


Since everybody creates the problem, everyone needs to help with the solution.


  2. let your government know you want the problem solved. Garbage has no constituency if everyone takes an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude. Officials won't spend money on solving this problem unless they know you care about it.

  3. visit your local dump. Look at what is thrown away and help figure out ways to reuse it that make sense in your community.


Cannon, James, "Steel: The Recyclable Material", Environment, November 1973, pp. 11-20.

Hawaii State Plan for Solid Waste Recycling, Phase I, prepared by Richard E. Hopper, Office of Environmental Quality Control, Office of the Governor, State of Hawaii, December 1972, 105 p.

A Proposed Plan of Solid Waste Management for Connecticut (Summary), prepared by the General Electric Company Corporate Research and Development in cooperation with the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, July 1973, 65 p.

Recycle?, prepared by The League of Women Voters Education Fund, 1730 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, 1972, 39p., $.75.

Solid Waste Disposal Plan for the County of Hawaii, State of Hawaii,

prepared by Sunn, Low, Tom & Hara, Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii, December 1970, 9 p.

Solid Waste Management Plan for City and County of Honolulu, prepared by Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., Boston, New York and Palo Alto, July 1971, 176 p.

The States' Roles in Solid Waste Management: a Task Force Report, The Council of State Governments, Iron Works Pike, Lexington, Kentucky 40505, April 1973, 58 p.

This publication was prepared by the League of Women Voters of Hawaii under training grant No. T900431 from the Office of Solid Waste Management Programs, Environmental Protection Agency to the League of Women Voters Education Fund.

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