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Saturday, October 28, 2017
Audit: City Loses $36.5M by Not Recycling Paper and Plastic into Electricity
By News Release @ 6:19 PM :: 1177 Views :: Honolulu County, Energy, Environment

Audit of the City’s Recycling Program

News Release from Honolulu Auditor, 27 October 2017

Audit Abstract:  The City Council of Honolulu requested an audit to receive information relating to the city’s recycling program, including the performance of the agency administering the program, the general effectiveness of the city’s recycling efforts, and the effectiveness of the specific recycling programs, such as the white bin program.  Specific issues reviewed included amount of recyclable waste recycled versus incinerated at the city’s waste-to-energy facility (H-POWER); the viability of the community recycling program; and a cost-benefit comparison of recycling selected materials versus incinerating them at H-POWER.

The city has been effective in its efforts to divert municipal solid waste and recycling has contributed significantly to landfill diversion.  However, the market for selling and buying recycled waste has declined.  As a result, revenues from the sale of solid waste are insufficient to offset the program costs of processing the collected recycled waste.  

We found that solid waste disposal costs can be reduced by diverting recycled waste to the H-POWER waste to energy facility.  Based on contract obligations for delivering solid waste to H-POWER, we estimate the city could have reduced solid waste disposal costs by $7 million dollars and could have generated about $29.5 million dollars in electric revenues by diverting recycled waste to the H-POWER facility.  Source reduction efforts can further reduce the amount of waste generated. 

Lastly, we found that community recycling was once a cost-efficient way to collect mixed recyclables. However, after the 2008 service contract, cost-efficiency declined due to increased collection costs; incorrect cost and collection estimates; optimistic versus actual collections; and the start of island-wide curbside recycling collections. As a result, the community recycling (white bin) program is no longer viable.

HIGHLIGHTS

The city has been effective in its efforts to divert municipal solid waste and recycling has contributed significantly to landfill diversion.

Solid waste disposal costs can be reduced by diverting recyclable waste to the H-Power waste to energy facility. Based on contract obligations for delivering solid waste to H-Power, we estimate the city could have reduced solid waste disposal costs by $7 million dollars and could have generated about $29.5 million dollars in electric revenues by diverting recyclable waste to the H-Power facility. Reducing waste at its source (source reduction) can further reduce the amount of waste generated. We made 10 recommendations to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the city's recycling programs.

The Market for Recycled Waste Has Declined

The recycling program has successfully diverted material from the landfill. The market for selling and buying recycled waste has declined, as a result, revenues from the sale of recyclable waste are insufficient to offset the costs of collecting the recycled waste. Ending the curbside recycling program and sending recycled materials to H-Power could save the city millions

Source Reduction Can Save Waste Processing Costs

The recycling program has successfully diverted material from the landfill. The market for selling and buying recycled waste has declined, as a result, revenues from the sale of recyclable waste are insufficient to offset the costs of collecting the recycled waste. Ending the curbside recycling program and sending recycled materials to H-Power could save the city millions. The amount of waste processed by H-Power grew by 11% over the past ten years while the amount of waste recycled grew by 7%. Reducing the origination of waste at the source could reduce the amount of waste generated and the subsequent need to process and dispose of waste.

Community Recycling White Bin Program Is No Longer Viable

Cost-efficiency declined after the 2008 service contract was expanded, due to factors such as increased collections costs and the start of island-wide curbside recycling collections. The island-wide curbside recycling collections impacted the original cost and collection estimates and reduced the actual collection. As a result, the community recycling (white bin) program was no longer viable.

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