Chinatown merchants are now required to use city-mandated yellow bags to dispose of their curbside trash, otherwise it won't be picked up by city trash collectors.
The city announced the new requirement at a press conference Monday in Chinatown.
The city will provide the yellow bags free through the end of January 2020. Merchants will then need to purchase them through Island Plastic Bags Inc. at about 60 cents per bag beginning in February 2020.
In June, the city began requiring residents and businesses in the Chinatown area to put their garbage in bags as opposed to boxes because the latter contributed to crowded sidewalks.
The move posed a problem for some businesses when their bags were ripped open at night or when other non-bagged rubbish got dumped in front of their stores, making it appear they were not in compliance with the rules.
Stores that failed to comply with the bag requirement did not have their trash picked up and faced city fines as well.
“The issue would be the street people breaking into the trash, taking it as their own,” said Nicholas Lee, Cindy’s Lei and Flower Shoppe representative. “The troubles that come with that are also just people, not necessarily homeless, contributing to those piles when they shouldn’t be.”
Merchants in the area buy into a city program to have their trash collected at a graduated rate, which depends on the cubic feet of trash (unit rate) or a minimum charge of $30 a month. The city decides whether to charge the minimum or the unit rate based on which amount is higher.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell explained that the city implemented the original bag rule because curbside trash placed in boxes, in addition to blocking sidewalks and roads, made the area unsanitary and unsightly.
However, he acknowledged the boxes-to-bags rule has not been as successful as he had hoped.
“We asked our merchants to put their opala in bags and the good news is that they’ve started to do that, but all kinds of bags from thick bags to bags that are not that thick,” he told reporters. “It’s not working as well as we’d liked.”
The city believes the yellow, thicker, larger and more durable bags from Island Plastic Bags will improve the trash pickup process.
“Hopefully, those who don’t have homes won’t rip them apart. It will be harder for them to do so. We’ll see how it works,” Caldwell said.
He added that the city is also looking into implementing small, locking trash cans for merchants in the area.
“We’ve kind of surveyed the businesses and most of them can accommodate this bin,” he said. “It’s locking. so once you roll it out, it cannot be opened, but when the truck picks it up, it unlocks.”
Lee, with Cindy’s Lei and Flower Shoppe, hopes the yellow bags will help the city identify what trash belongs to which businesses.
“If the plan were implemented perfectly and enforced perfectly, we would know just who would be contributing to the trash piles that are not people who are buying into the bulk refuse or the regular refuse pickup during the week,” he said.
Environmental Services Director Lori Kahikina said she believes the yellow bags will be better for the environment, although the plastic is thicker than that of the average trash bag.
“If you use the regular black Hefty [bags] that you buy at Costco, it’s so easy to be torn into. So you get all the little, tiny micro-plastics that are flying around,” she said.
“I think this is better, as the mayor was trying to tear it open, even as I was trying to tear it open. It’s hard. So, hopefully, the little pieces won’t be floating around . . . but the goal is still everything ends up at H-Power.”