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Honolulu Officials Say Bulky Trash Program Is Starting To Work

Casey Harlow
Bulky trash items waiting to be picked up in Waikiki

Honolulu officials say the city's bulky item pilot program is beginning to work despite ongoing complaints. And officials are encouraging residents to report illegal dumpers.

Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services rolled out an appointment-based pickup system for bulky trash items three months ago, saying the old system was inefficient and a drain on resources.

A 2017 audit found the city's bulky item collection service paid $1.7 million in overtime to 153 employees between July 2015 to June 2016.

The pilot program affects O?ahu's urban core from Foster Village to Hawaii Kai. Many have criticized the city for the mounting trash on sidewalks and streets since regular pickups ended and called for the pilot to end.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell says the city is seeing improvements in the program.

"Just from June to July, in terms of picking up non-appliance type of goods, [appointments have] gone up by 24%," said Caldwell. "Just like most new programs, when you first bring about change, it takes awhile. People are getting comfortable and are starting to make appointments."

According to Caldwell, there has also been a 37% increase in trash tonnage from June to July 2019. But says the city will continue to pick up bulky items as long as residents make an appointment, and describe what is being dumped.

Credit Casey Harlow / HPR
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell addressed members of the media on Monday, Aug. 12. He says the city is seeing an increase in residents making appointments for their bulky trash items.

For the last two months, the city has been trying to get residents used to the new process before it started enforcing fines, which began earlier this month. Fines can range from $250 to $2,500 per incident, per day. They are issued to the residents of the property where the trash has been dumped.

If residents see people illegally dumping their trash, they should call police, says Environmental Services Director Lori Kahikina. But if the officers don't show up in time, Kahikina says residents should take a picture or video of the people dumping, and note down their license plate numbers.

"What we would like to do eventually is the city would put out our own cameras in the 'hot spots' to deter the illegal dumping from happening," said Kahikina.

According to Kahikina, there are approximately 170 "hot spots" in the urban core where there continues to be illegal dumping.

So far, the city has issued several notices of violation to residents, and only a couple of residents have been fined.

For more information about bulky item pickups, and to make collection appointments online, go to the city's refuse website at opala.org.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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