The Hawaii Department of Health has failed to file an annual report on the state of landfills and waste reduction with the Legislature for the past four years despite a legislative mandate to do so.

The state waste management office’s last report covered 2015.

The report assesses the state’s progress on waste reduction goals and compiles data about solid waste across all islands. It also reports the amount of recycled goods purchased by the government, landfill diversion rates, how the government is supporting businesses that use recovered materials and other accountability measures.

It should also provide information on how government agencies are reducing their reliance on imported fuels.

“The reports are still being completed and not yet available,” said Janice Okubo, the Department of Health’s communications director, via email. “They are having some challenges with collecting the data.”

Okubo did not respond to further interview requests.

RRR Recycling Services Hawaii pet bottles.
The report should let the public and lawmakers know the state’s plan and goals for the upcoming year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The lack of annual reports is concerning to some legislators who feel the reports are important.

Rep. Nicole Lowen, chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, said these kind of reports are essential to determine if progress is being made.

“My big concern is source reduction and I’m looking at this 2016 report now … and that’s not really substantially addressed,” she said.

Lowen said she’s more concerned about whether the report is providing the kind of information that would help the Legislature address climate change.

She said she met with staff at the Office of Solid Waste Management at the beginning of the year and was updated on the kind of information that would be covered in the report.

“But we do need this data and information to be publicly available,” she said.

Sen. Mike Gabbard, who chairs the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee, noted that the DOH has had a difficult time filling key environmental management positions since its office moved to Pearl City in 2017.

“I’d like to see them work more quickly in the hiring process and in publishing this data,” he said via email, calling on counties and DOH to coordinate on acquiring up-to-date and reliable data.

Sen. Kurt Fevella, also a member of the Senate’s environmental committee, said he planned to reach out to the agency and see if he could help expedite data collection.

“I definitely want that data because these are things that the community needs to know,” he said.

This is not the first time the report has been delayed due to difficulties with data collection.

In 2014 the report was first delayed and ultimately canceled when department employees could not compile the data.

The 2016 report said the office “is evaluating data collection and reporting practices and will work towards increased consistency.” It also promised that future reports will be submitted on time with any data gaps “clearly noted.”

The statute requires the report to be submitted 20 days before the start of each legislative session. The 2020 session is scheduled to begin Wednesday.

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