(BIVN) – Dante Carpenter, a well known political figure in Hawaii, was one of the few to speak against the proposed bill to reduce polystyrene on Hawaii Island during a Hawaii County Council meeting held in Hilo on Thursday.
Carpenter, a former mayor and state senator, said he is presently a consultant and director of Pacific Waste, Inc; a company that collects rubbish island-wide and which is in the process of having a subsidiary company called BioEnergy Hawaii develop a waste-to-energy facility in Waikoloa.
“While Bill 13 Draft 3 certainly was offered with the best of intentions,” Carpenter said, “polystyrene food containers – which is the bad guy going into this whole discussion – is not the problem. Polystyrene has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, as safe for human use for over 50 years. You use it yourself in your own support of feeding senior citizens in other parts of the island where they normally don’t have access to hot foods.”
“Recently, I had a meeting with Mr. Wayne Hamada- who, by the way, is from Hawaii Island – who is also the energy recovery administrator for Honolulu’s H-POWER resource recovery system,” Carpenter continued. “He stated to me that they have not experienced any problems with converting polystyrene to electrical power. Now, they burn several hundred tons a year and thousands of tons in the life of the H-POWER system, converting this ingredient to electrical power. In fact, it has a higher BTU rating per pound than oil and other imported foreign products.”
“The problem is inadequate litter control,” Carpenter concluded.
Shannon Matson, who spoke after Carpenter during public testimony, said she absolutely agreed that the issue is litter control. “So let’s control the litter by not creating it,” she said. “Why are we creating this litter that we have to deal with in this manner?”
Zero-waste advocate Kristine Kubat was more blunt. “When Dante Carpenter sits here and he advocates and says ‘we don’t need to do this’… he’s advocating for incineration,” Kubat said. “We went away from that path a long time ago. We made that choice a long time ago. That’s another source of frustration. Why does that keep coming up? He’s saying ‘yeah, wow, we like Styrofoam’. They love Styrofoam, they love plastic in the waste stream, because it’s very close to oil. And that’s that whole mindset.”
“It’s not a litter problem,” Kubat said. “Styrofoam is as problematic in the waste stream as it is in the environment, because once it’s in the waste stream it limits what you can do in terms of getting to zero waste.”
State Senator Russell Ruderman, testifying in favor of the bill as an owner of markets on Hawaii Island that do not use polystyrene, said that incinerating any kind of plastic results in extremely toxic byproducts.
“You might put em somewhere out of sight,” Ruderman said, “but they’re still in our environment. I also was a member of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee – not this last cycle, but five years ago – where we came to the unanimous conclusion that no incineration was appropriate for our island. Although another incinerator company has proceeded anyway, that is not public policy, and is not in the public interest.”
“I don’t think you have any obligations to accommodate their desire to burn the most toxic possible product,” Ruderman said.
The council voted 7-2 in favor of advancing the bill on first reading.