Western Exposure

Shrink-wrapped bales of Hawaiian garbage headed for the Columbia River and a landfill near you

By January 11, 2010March 19th, 20153 Comments

What do you think about shrink-wrapped bales of garbage barged from tropical Hawaii across the Pacific down the once-fierce Columbia River to Longview? Just doesn’t sound like a good idea, does it?

rita_hibbardwebDon’t feel too good about reports that the plan, hatched about six months ago by Seattle-based Hawaiian Waste Systems,  may have hit a snag, reports The Longview Daily News reporter Andre Stepankowsky. It’s likely to prove only a temporary delay. Getting an amendment to its federal permit has taken longer than expected, a company official says. The amendment involves a change of plans — instead of shipping all the way to the Roosevelt Landfill in central Washington, the garbage would be barged to lower Columbia ports, from where it would make the rest of the journey by truck or train, saving time.

Already, 300 tons of Honolulu garbage is stacked up at a port there, shrink-wrapped in tight bales, awaiting transport to the scenic Pacific Northwest. Officials are concerned it may become a health hazard.

The plan has already survived a review by the Department of Agriculture, which found that if the garbage was shrink-wrapped, those pesky nonnative pests couldn’t get out. Yeah, I’m sure that’s absolutely never gonna happen. The Vancouver Columbian writes:

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the company’s original plan to barge the waste directly to Roosevelt. The agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found that the proposal would not introduce exotic nonnative pests from Oahu, which could pose a serious environmental threat to the Pacific Northwest. The USDA required the garbage to be transported in baled air-tight packages.

Can we live a sustainable lifestyle when it requires us to barge thousands of tons of garbage 3,000 miles across the ocean to a landfill in south central Washington? The same area, I might add, that Seattle citizens send some of their garbage to? A service for which the city of Honolulu will pay Hawaiian Waste Systems $99 per 100,000 tons of garbage?   As long as it’s that cheap to live that irresponsibly, the answer is clearly no. Some might say that living this unsustainable lifestyle is itself a health hazard, to us and to our planet.

— Rita Hibbard

Rita Hibbard

Rita Hibbard



  • Gary Shigenaka says:

    This is a little bit of the proverbial pot calling the kettle black…as glossed over as an aside in the article, where does self-righteous Seattle (of which I am a member, BTW) think ITS garbage goes? It’s loaded on trains and shipped out of state to a landfill in the Oregon desert. I’m not saying that the amount of trash we and the rest of American society generates isn’t a problem, IT IS. And Seattle Public Utilities has done a pretty good job reducing the impact of the garbage that the city’s residents produce, expanding recycling options to include food waste and more plastics. Rather than complain about this plan in typically NIMBYish fashion, the writer might consider discussing (and the environment would be better served) if she ranted about the ridiculous amount of superfluous packaging pushed upon us by the vendors of all the stuff we cannot live without.

  • Dorli Rainey says:

    You can shrinkwrap anything as long as you then encase it in steel drums because sooner or later rodents will find a way to gnaw holes into the wrap and spill the garbage. We don’t need to fight this government, we need a new government from Hawaii to Maine. Demoplicans and republicrats have taken leave of their senses.As long as their corporate contributions continue anything goes.

  • Jeff Robinson says:

    How much of the garbage was shipped over to Hawaii from the mainland in the first place? And considering that Hawaii’s main economic engine is tourism, most of the garbage can probably be traced to the needs of mainlanders. This is just returning the trash from whence it came.

Leave a Reply