The Downtown-Chinatown rule for businesses to use new thick yellow trash bags isn’t popular among some in the community.
The district’s Neighborhood Board Chairman, Kevin McDonald, says that problems of trash bags being ripped open with rubbish scattered aren’t going to be solved by the new measure.
“So basically what happened is Mayor Caldwell came down here one-day last week,” McDonald said.
“He had a big easel and he put the trash bags in there and he said ‘here’s your new trash bags’. There was no research done; there was nobody questioned or saying how can we come up with solutions? He just showed up and said here’s your new trash bags.”
In June, the city began a program of only picking up trash from it’s subscribers that was placed in bags. After a couple of months, many in the community told KHON2 that the bags were consistently being ripped open, and that the left over trash was not being collected.
In one instance, a trash pile was lit on fire and had to be put out by the Honolulu Fire Department.
The city responded by placing the new ordinance on September 16th.
The city’s Department of Environmental Services Deputy Director Tim Houghton thinks that the measure will help with cleanliness even if it’s not perfect.
“They’re thicker.” Houghton said.
“We were hoping that those have less opportunity for people to break into them to cut them open to let trash get on the street. Is it a perfect solution? Maybe not, but it’s another step in the right direction we hope.”
The city also hopes that the visual aspect of the bags will help curb illegal dumping, which has also been a big problem in the area. Collectors are instructed to only pick up trash which is in the yellow bags. Businesses subscription with the city has their trash picked up six days a week at 4:00 a.m.
“Clearly then we know who we’re picking up from, that they really are our customers,” Houghton added.
“We’re able to identify and try and find the people who are illegally dumping or trying to get free service.”
The cost of the bags will be about 60 cents per bag, which will be passed on to businesses tentatively starting in January. For now, the city is providing the bags.
“I pay 18 cents for my current trash bags from Costco, and these new trash bags are 62 cents and I can only get them in one place. I have to go to a special vendor to get them.” McDonald said.
A long-term resolution that the city has been working on is a bin system that has an automatic lock. Although union negotiations would need to be implemented, Houghton believes that may be the best solution moving forward.
“We from the administration would like to get to that because we see that as much more of a long-term fix for the cleanliness of Chinatown.”
McDonald doesn’t believe the issue will be solved that easily.
“You have to address the problem. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but making new trash bags isn’t going to do anything. We have to address the homeless problem.”