- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - The cost of Hawaii County’s organic waste diversion program doubled last year with the signing of a new contract that includes construction of a composting facility.

The contract with Hawaiian Earth Recycling requires the county to pay for the production of mulch from green waste and more nutrient-rich compost made from food scraps and other organic sources, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/2kmeqMO ).

The county is paying about $85 or $100 per ton, depending on where the mulch is produced, up from about $42 and $45 per ton. The county has paid a total of $1.7 million for mulching operations since the fiscal year began July 1.

The mulch is free for residents.

Greg Goodale, county solid waste division chief, said the new rates are cheaper than what it could cost to put the same amount of mulch into the Hilo landfill. He said those costs would be around $135 and $140 per ton, including costs for landfill monitoring, trucking and personnel.

The higher prices went into effect July 1, but the compost won’t be available until the $10.5 million compost project is finished as early as next year.

As part of the agreement with Hawaiian Earth Recycling, the county is also getting a composting facility next to the landfill.

The project’s draft environmental assessment said the facility would process 28,000 tons of organic waste in its first year of operation and reach 35,000 tons by the tenth year.

The contract includes a minimum annual payment of $2.8 million before the composting facility is built and $4 million once it’s operational. The annual cost would likely be between $4 and $5 million once the project is up and running, Goodale said.

Mayor Harry Kim must approve plans for the compost facility before construction can began. Kim said he has concerns about the project and expects to complete the review this week.

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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