LIHUE — Residents may soon be feeling a new kind of crunch when it comes to throwing away their trash.
A measure now being considered before the Kauai County Council, Bill 2551, would implement a new waste management program, called pay as you throw, which aims to divert some waste from the Kekaha landfill and bolster recycling practices. It would charge residential and commercial customers incremental rates based upon how much they choose to throw away.
But the change being considered today could also mean residential users may pay the same amount for smaller bins than they have now, and higher fees if they want to throw away even more.
“Pay as you throw provides an economic incentive for waste diversion and raises awareness about how much waste individuals are generating in their homes,” County Solid Waste Program Coordinator Allison Fraley said. “Implementing such a program not only increases recycling behavior, but increases source reduction and reuse as well, which are no-cost programs for the county.”
If it is implemented, Kauai would become the first county in the state to implement a pay-as-you-throw program.
In 2013, Kauai residents and businesses threw away 77,000 tons of trash, according to Department of Public Works figures. About 60 percent of those materials, county officials estimate, could have been reused, recycled or repurposed.
Fraley estimates that it costs each county household about $60 a month to maintain current refuse collection and disposal services.
The county, however, currently charges most residential customers about $12 per month for refuse services.
Overall costs to manage waste and recyclables for Kauai residents, she said, is about $15.5 million per year.
“Diverting materials from disposal saves and reduces both operating and capital disposal costs — landfill capacity is preserved; landfill life is extended; and siting, design, permitting and construction costs for new cells are deferred,” the proposed Kauai County Council bill reads.
Not everyone is sold on the concept.
Former Deputy County Engineer Arnold Leong, who lost his bid for Kauai County Council in the primary election, said he is concerned about the high costs associated with recycling.
Waste collection fees currently tacked onto real property tax bills, he said, should be removed, if the pay-as-you-throw programs and fees are implemented.
“It’s OK, provided that they back the number out of the fees that are currently tacked onto our property tax bills,” Leong said. “They shouldn’t try to disguise a tax as a fee.”
Residential properties are currently assessed a monthly $6 base fee, which allows residents to use the county’s five refuse transfer stations in Hanalei, Kapaa, Lihue, Hanapepe and Kekaha.
Those residents who choose to use the county’s weekly refuse collection service are assessed an additional $6 fee monthly for up to three 32-gallon carts, or one 96-gallon cart. A $12 monthly fee is assessed on top of those charges, if homeowners request three additional 32-gallon carts or another 96-gallon cart.
But under the pay-as-you-throw program, homeowners would pay the same rates for smaller waste carts and pay higher fees for additional ones.
Homeowners, under the county’s proposal, would be assessed a monthly $6 fee for either two 32-gallon carts or one 64-gallon cart — a $12 charge would be assessed each month for any additional carts requested.
Households who opt for either three 32-gallon carts or a 96-gallon cart, meanwhile, would pay a monthly $15 fee — $9 higher than the same user is paying now. Additional carts would cost these homeowners $21 a month in fees.
“It will be important for us to make sure the public understands that their current fee will not go up if they effectively manage and reduce the amount of waste they dispose of each week,” Fraley said. “This can be accomplished by most households and we will provide guidance on how it can be achieved.”
Nonresidential properties, including businesses and transient vacation rentals, wouldn’t see higher rates if they threw away the same amount of trash. Instead, they would have an opportunity to downsize their bins and fees.
They currently pay a $84 monthly fee for up to three 32-gallon carts, or one 96-gallon cart, collected each week.
If the bill is passed, commercial properties would be charged monthly fees of $64 for one 64-gallon cart, or two 32-gallon carts, for weekly collection.
Those that opt for a 96-gallon cart, or three 32-gallon carts, would be charged $84.
The Kauai County Council will consider the proposal beginning at 1:30 p.m. today in the Historic County Building Council Chambers.