WAILUKU - The capacity of the estimated 30-year-old, 100-acre Central Maui Landfill is finite.
There are other landfills in the county - one each in Hana and on Lanai and Molokai.
Landfills have been closed at Olowalu, Waikapu and Makani (Upcountry).
According to the County of Maui updated 2009 Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan (ISWMP), the majority of the county's waste is transported to the Central Maui Landfill, projected to reach capacity in 2026.
Further, waste generation will continue to increase along with the population and the amount of garbage managed daily, an additional 439 tons per day by 2030.
The plan reported in the study that the county diverted in the few years prior to 2009 around 30 percent of its waste to recycling, composting and other beneficial uses.
"This diversion rate is noncompliant with the state's goal of 50 percent diversion by 2000. Diverting more materials would also help prolong the life of the County's landfills," the ISWMP cited.
A comprehensive, long-term blueprint for solid waste management, the analysis seeks to reach a 60 percent diversion rate, improve infrastructure to accomplish this increased level of diversion and explore modern technologies to reduce the county's dependence on landfills.
Hana Steel is the recycling coordinator for the county Department of Environmental Management's Solid Waste Division.
"Our goals are to implement the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan," she told the Lahaina News in a recent interview.
She is a fountain of valuable information.
"It is very difficult to site and build a new landfill. Landfills are extremely expensive - very, very, very, very, very expensive," Steel advised.
"Overall nationwide, it is estimated that it cost a million (dollars) to open one acre of landfill. That's not operating costs; operating costs are separate," Steel continued.
"That's just build-out costs; and it costs a half-a-million dollars an acre to properly close a landfill."
Since the 2009 study, there has been progress in reaching the ISWMP goals.
"Our community is doing very well," Steel reported. "We are keeping about 42 percent of everything that everybody throws away out of the landfill."
"This is above the national average," she added.
Her charge is to better the situation, and she set forth specific suggestions.
"Recycling on Maui can improve by convincing the Department of Education to implement recycling in the public schools, because currently there is no contract for recycling in the public schools.
"Another way we could improve is to pass legislation requiring condominiums and businesses to recycle.
"Another way is to ban commercial food waste and set up a pig farm on the West Side.
"Another way we could improve recycling is to have curbside recycling go island-wide," she advocated.
West Maui County Councilwoman Elle Cochran supports measures to protect the land as well.
"Recycling items rather than filling our land with opala (trash) is the better way to go. We are on an island; our land is finite. Reusing items for a continued purpose makes sense," she advised.
Changing our mindset through education is another alternative.
This and more in the next installment.