Trash Rule Sets Sail

Hawaiian trash may soon be saying “Aloha” to the mainland. Following a public comment period and risk assessment, the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued a rule allowing Hawaii to ship its municipal solid waste (MSW) to other states.

Under the rule, garbage only can be transported in airtight plastic bales intended to eliminate the risk of spreading plant pests. The proposed version banned any agricultural or yard waste, but the final version allows for a negligible amount that might be included in collection containers.

The rule comes amid concern of dwindling landfill space (including from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii), says Shannon Hamm, assistant deputy administrator of the service's policy program development staff. Most of the waste probably will come from the Island of Oahu, which has one municipal landfill and generates more than 1.5 million tons of MSW annually. The Island of Hawaii, with one of its two landfills approaching capacity, also is a likely contributor.

According to APHIS, eight of the 12 letters it received during the public comment period expressed support for the proposal. The others primarily voiced environmental and pest risk concerns, which the rule makers did not deem significant.

Parties interested in accepting the waste now may begin working with officials. According to APHIS, one company has expressed a desire to bale some of the Island of Hawaii's waste and deliver it to Washington state to be landfilled. So far, several landfills in the state's Columbia River Basin have been identified as potential destinations.