- Associated Press - Friday, May 6, 2016

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii County has approved more than $10 million for a new composting facility capable of turning green waste into compost for the public to buy.

The County Council approved the $10.6 million bond for the organics processing facility on Wednesday, West Hawaii Today reported (http://bit.ly/1q39prm). The council will have one more vote on the funding before it is finalized.

“This is probably one of the most important projects we’ll see our county embarking on,” said North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, who sponsored two bills to pay for the project.

The council agreed last year to allow the Department of Environmental Management to enter into a 10-year contract to implement green waste collection sites. Under the contract, the waste will be transported to a receiving and mixing facility at the West Hawaii landfill and then trucked to the planned compost facility at the Hilo landfill.

At the facility, rows of mulch and organic waste will be spread out in temperatures exceeding 130 degrees, which is high enough to kill coqui frogs, little fire ants, coffee berry borers and ohia wilt, said Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd.

Residents will be able to buy the compost at a price set by the contractor, Hawaiian Earth Recycling, a subsidiary of the county’s current mulch contractor, Hawaiian Earth Products. Mulch will still be free for residents.

Work at the composting facility is expected to begin in July, with plans for it to be complete in 2018.

The new process of turning green waste, food-contaminated paper and restaurant waste into compost that can be sold is expected to increase the amount of waste diverted from landfills by about a third.

While the $10 million price tag may seem like a large amount to some residents, Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung says it will be worth it.

“I know at first blush it looks like a huge amount, but I know it will be money well spent,” he said.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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