County Environmental Management Commission Reflects on Garbage User Fees


Would you be willing to pay a few extra pennies – or a few extra dollars – to get rid of the products you buy and the packaging they come in?

This is the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, an international effort to get producers to shoulder a greater share of the disposal burden that currently falls on the government and its taxpayers.

The practice, as recently enacted in Maine, charges producers a fee for packaging or products with high disposal costs, such as electronics, batteries, paint, and medications. . The money goes to a fund that governments can tap into waste disposal. Oregon proposes a similar law.

The additional charges are not only intended to help pay for disposal costs, but also to incentivize producers to reduce the impacts of waste streams.

In some ways, an EPR program is similar to Hawaii’s HI-5 drop-off program, where consumers pay 6 cents per container of beverage at the store, with 5 cents refunded to them at certified recycling centers.

The HI-5 program is self-sufficient, Georjean Adams, chair of the county’s environmental management committee, said on Wednesday. A charge on non-HI-5 glass makers, on the other hand, covers about half the cost of disposal, she said. In this program, importers pay 1.5 cents per container to the state, which transfers funds to counties in the form of subsidies for recycling on the island.

Big Island owners pay most of the cost of waste disposal through property taxes. Adams said their share of the disposal cost is basically determined by the value of their property, which has nothing to do with the amount of waste they generate.

In addition, most residents pay no disposal fees, with all kinds of waste disposed of free of charge at county transfer stations. Commercial carriers and disposers pay a tipping fee of $ 114 per tonne at the landfill, but the county pays contractor Waste Management Inc. $ 242 per tonne to handle it.

“There are unfair subsidies when it comes to solid waste,” Adams said. “There is no financial incentive to reduce waste production.

Other ideas discussed by the committee included increasing tip fees, imposing dedicated waste disposal taxes, expanding curbside pickup, and adding user fees such as the often suggested and just as often rejected baggage tag program. A line on property tax returns showing the cost of waste disposal might be a way not to generate income but to educate people about the costs.

The ideas of user fees have been politically unpopular and could be seen as regressive as they cost proportionately more for low-income households. But they could take the cost of disposal home, said Environmental Stewardship Commissioner Jon Olson.

“If we collect the disposal charge at the point of purchase, that puts the consumer in the driver’s seat. He knows what it costs, ”Olson said. “I’m not kidding myself. … It will be a tall order, but if we continue to do it the way we do, we are going to go bankrupt.

Waste management director Ramzi Mansour said he met the county finance department about a month ago with “the idea of ​​considering the legality of setting user fees.” He said the proposal has been forwarded to the county corporation’s attorney.

The county also contracts with a consultant to perform a life cycle analysis of the county’s waste stream.

The option to increase fees reduces services, Mansour said. For example, the opening hours and days of transfer stations could be reduced. Those who use transfer stations are used to longer hours, while those who pick up curbside understand that one day a week is garbage day, he said.

Ultimately, “it all comes down to funding and staffing,” Mansour said.

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