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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, May 2, 2002

Kea'au will get recycling project

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — A $400,000 federal grant will be used to develop a demonstration project to recycle glass, aluminum, paper and other items at the Kea'au solid-waster transfer station.

The Environment Protection Agency grant was awarded to 'Opala Recycling Enterprises, a partnership between the Hawai'i Island Economic Development Board and Recycle Hawai'i.

Lawrence Capellas, waste management division chief for Hawai'i County, said that even though the county is not involved in the grant, information gleaned from the recycling operation will help officials determine ways to divert waste from the landfill.

The county is under pressure from the state Health Department to close its Hilo landfill this year, and officials are searching for ways to cut down on the amount of garbage that will have to be hauled from the east side of the island over to the Pu'uanahulu landfill in Kona.

Once the Hilo landfill closes, the Kona site, which was opened in the 1990s and meets all federal and state standards, will be the island's only landfill. Despite some community opposition, county officials have determined that hauling up to 200 tons of waste a day across the island to the landfill is more efficient than establishing a new facility in East Hawai'i.

The county already is diverting tires, car batteries, household appliances and junked cars from the landfill, and a green-waste project turns yard clippings into mulch. Still, the Big Island is well behind Mainland trends in waste-stream diversion — 13 percent here versus 28 percent nationally, according to Paula Helfrich, president of the Hawai'i Island Economic Development Board.

She said there is discussion of also establishing a recycling project in Kona.