Letters–Incinerator, Again?

Just having returned from a month-long mainland trip, I found that the waste-to-energy controversy has reached a boiling point.  I just read recent commentaries by Hunter Bishop and Nelson Ho; like them, I too worked for the Dept. of Environmental Management during the Kim administration.   If nothing has changed in the incineration world, why are we even having this conversation?   In case anyone forgot, the County of Hawaii has a standing Zero Waste Resolution adopted in 2007.  A previous County Council voted down incineration because of its forever money-sucking maintenance issues. So, why is our mayor, if he truly loves the Big Island, insisting on shoving an incinerator down our throats?

 As a County worker I learned that companies selling waste-to-energy burners get island communities to buy into them because once installed the company can garner huge fees year after year.  While in County employ, I spoke to a representative of the Cayman Islands where one of these burning beasts was pedaled.  She stated how much it costs them and wished they had gone a more sustainable route.   Incineration is old technology. Island communities are special worlds; the Big Island being more so since we already have a natural chemical emitter, the volcano.

 The Big Island has a chance to show that a Zero Waste approach to deal with our disposables as resources works.  Everywhere I traveled, people are thinking sustainability.  Communities are recycling more as they see the value in metals, mulch, paper and plastics, to the point that old landfills are being mined to get these resources.    Voters, educate yourselves on where the current candidates for County Council stand on this issue.   The Council will decide the fate of our waste issues, not Mayor Kenoi.

Linda Damas Kelley


2 replies
  1. Jay Turkovsky
    Jay Turkovsky says:

    Linda Dumas Kelley, the absolute only way you will achieve zero waste is to have zero population. From there it requires the use if intelligence, not opinion, to manage our disposables. So what if it cost some money… So do landfills and any other method of disposing of stuff that CAN’T be recycled.
    Have you investigated the Wheelabrator plant in Spokane, WA? There was tons of controversy over siting that pant but now fifteen years later none of the controversial issues have come true.
    As a county worker you’ve told me you know very little about business or the cost of our human waste stream. I find your commentary to not be based on reality!
    Why not present a viable alternative if you think you’re the authority?

  2. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    Thank you, Linda, for your letter.
    Indeed, so-called “waste-to-energy” is anachronistic.
    In the past twenty years, the number of these facilities in the US has declined and so has the amount of stuff burnt in them. Landfilling also declined. During the same period, the the amount of discards recycled and composted increased. {EPA Facts and Figures, 20014}

    The troubled history of WTE has included
    (1) Financial problems for the jurisdictions paying for the incinerators. Harrisburg, PA went bankrupt because of theirs.
    (2) Multiple cases of litigation involving local government jurisdictions with WTE facilities. (Try Google: “Wheelabrator OR Covanta lawsuit court”).
    (3)repeated releases into the environment (dioxin and heavy metals being most common), due to cost-cutting/improper maintenance of ‘leading edge’ technology.

    There is much more …

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