The district’s environmental fee is contemplating rubbish charges

Would you be willing to pay a few extra cents – or a few extra dollars – to dispose of the products you bought and their packaging?

This is the concept behind Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, an international effort to get manufacturers to shoulder more of the waste disposal burden that currently falls on the government and their taxpayers.

The recently signed practice in Maine requires manufacturers to charge a fee for packaging or products with high disposal costs such as electronics, batteries, paints, and medicines. The money goes to a fund that governments can tap into for waste disposal. Oregon makes a similar law.

The additional fees are not only intended to help cover disposal costs, but also serve as an incentive for manufacturers to reduce the impact of the waste streams.

In some ways, an EPR program is similar to Hawaii’s HI-5 deposit program, where consumers pay 6 cents per bottle of beverage in-store and are refunded 5 cents at certified recycling centers.

The HI-5 program is self-sufficient, said Georjean Adams, chairman of the county’s environmental management commission, on Wednesday. In contrast, a fee for manufacturers of non-HI-5 glass covers about half the disposal cost, she said. In this program, importers pay 1.5 cents per container to the state, which transfers funds to the counties as grants for recycling on the island.

Big Island property owners pay most of the cost of waste disposal through property taxes. Adams said their share of the disposal costs is largely determined by the value of their property, which is unrelated to the amount of waste they generate.

Otherwise, most residents do not pay any disposal fee, all types of waste are disposed of free of charge at the district transfer stations. Commercial hauliers 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 some unfair subsidies related to solid waste,” said Adams. “There is no financial incentive to reduce the amount of waste.”

Other ideas discussed by the Commission were to increase the tip fee, impose special taxes on waste disposal, expand roadside collection and introduce user fees such as the often proposed and just as often rejected pay-as-you-throw-bag tag -Program. A position in property tax returns showing the cost of waste disposal could be a way not to generate income but to educate people about the costs.

The usage fee ideas were politically unpopular and could be viewed as regressive as they cost proportionally more for low-income households. But they could drive the disposal costs home, said environmental management commissioner Jon Olson.

“When we collect the disposal fee when purchasing, this puts the consumer in the driver’s seat. He knows what it’ll cost, ”said Olson. “I have no illusions. … It’s going to be a big challenge, but if we continue as we do, we will go broke. “

Waste Management Director Ramzi Mansour said he met with the county treasury about a month ago to “come up with the idea of ​​maintaining the legality of setting a user fee.” He said the proposal had been forwarded to the county corporation counsel.

The district also hires a consultant to carry out a life cycle analysis of the district’s waste stream.

The option to increase fees limits services, Mansour said. For example, the hours and days on which the transfer stations are open could be shortened. Those who use transfer stations are used to extended opening hours, while those who are picked up at the roadside understand that one day of the week is garbage day, he said.

In the end, “it all comes down to funding and staff,” said Mansour.