City may seek monthly fee for garbage pickup
By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Worried that the city's proposal for a curbside recycling program will lead to more illegal dumping, City Council Chairman Gary Okino yesterday asked the administration to explore an $8 monthly fee for curbside garbage pickup.
In return, residents would still receive garbage collection twice a week, as well as alternating weekly green waste and recycling collections.
Mayor Jeremy Harris announced plans earlier this month for weekly curbside recycling that would eliminate one garbage collection a week for 160,000 O'ahu homes, except for those who opt to pay $8 a month to keep the second garbage pickup. If approved by the City Council, the program could begin July 1.
"I think a lot of the confusion, questions and problems that we see is with this optional second day a week pickup at $8," Okino said. "Wouldn't it be simpler to require everybody to pay the additional $8 and give them a second day pickup?"
Okino's suggestion came at a special meeting convened by City Councilman Mike Gabbard, who heads the public works committee. Gabbard said the mayor's proposal has galvanized the community and he set up the meeting to address questions and concerns regarding the plan.
Concerns raised included health risks associated with keeping trash around for a week, whether the city would be able to monitor what people were throwing into their trash bins and the potential for more illegal dumping by people who can't fit all their trash into one bin per week.
Suzanne Jones, the city's recycling coordinator, said the city will launch an educational campaign and provide calendars that will remind people about the dates of the different types of collections. The city will also educate people on how to wrap trash so that it does not attract flies and maggots.
Frank Doyle, acting director of the city Department of Environmental Services, said refuse workers can see what is dumped into the truck and the collections will be examined when they are unloaded to determine whether people are mixing recyclables with other trash.
Okino acknowledged that people might complain about the new fee.
In 1999, Harris proposed a $2.20 a week refuse collection fee in his operating budget. That plan did not include a recycling program and was strongly opposed by the community. The council ultimately rejected the new fee.
Okino said with everyone receiving the second-day collection, the city won't have to worry about selling decals to identify those who have paid for the service or monitor the money that has been collected.
However, Doyle said that the administration's projections are based on about half of the households recycling, and half paying for a second pickup.
"Right now we're looking to make some efficiencies in our operation with our present truck fleet and with the amount of equipment we have today," he said.
Collecting on all garbage routes three times a week would require more equipment and an expanded workforce, Doyle said. He asked Okino whether it would be possible to raise the monthly fee from $8.
Few community members came to the hearing and two testified.
Bryce Sprecher, president of Oahu Community Recycling, which has offered curbside recycling for three years, said he supports the city's proposal but saw several flaws. He said education will be critical in motivating people to recycle. His company offers recycling from the North Shore to Diamond Head and of 80,000 households, but only 800 pay $12 a month for the service.
He said many people can't afford $12 a month, and pointed out that the city's fee will only be $4 less.
He also said that among those who pay, many still forget to put out their recyclables.
"It's very confusing and there are a lot of issues about this program that need to be dealt with," Sprecher said.
Reach Treena Shapiro at email@example.com or 525-8070.