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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 15, 2010

Scavengers raiding Honolulu curbside recycling bins

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Blue recycling bins like this one on Waipao Place off 'Aiea Heights Drive are attracting pilferers cashing in on your trash.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The generator of the trash owns it until the city or private hauler picks it up.

It's Illegal

for anyone else other than the owner to remove trash from the bins

The Penalty

Fine of not more than $500 and/or imprisonment no more than 90 days

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Blue bins like this on 'Aiea Heights Drive are for recy­cling, but you own the discards until they’re officially picked up.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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You can throw it away, but it's still yours until the city picks it up.

Trash, recyclables and other items dumped in city-owned collection bins and placed on residential curbs are the homeowner's property until the city or a licensed private hauler picks them up, according to the city.

That question has arisen as homes increasingly rely on blue recycling bins to dispose of cans, bottles and other potentially valuable solid waste. The city relies on the value of those recyclables to help finance curbside recycling.

However , the blue bins also have attracted the attention of scavengers who cherry-pick the most valuable items, in particular containers eligible for 5-cent refunds.

So far, complaints about scavenging from blue bins have been sporadic, said Markus Owens, public information officer for the city Department of Environmental Services.

Under the law, trash is the property of the generator of that trash until it's picked up by the city or a licensed private hauler. That also means that liability for trash stays with the generator until the trash is collected.

"Basically the owner of the solid waste shall be the generator of the solid waste until the solid waste is collected," Owens said. "The person (owner) is potentially liable for damages resulting from the items until the city collects it."

City ordinances also make it illegal for anyone else to remove trash from the bins. The penalty: a fine of not more than $500 and/or imprisonment for no more than 90 days. However, from a practical standpoint , few are ever penalized for scavenging.

Still, residents are urged to call the police if they see someone scavenging from their trash.

That's "because you don't know if it's HI-5s or if they're in there trying to steal identities, and scavenging is illegal," Owens said.

Under the city's current contract with RRR Recycling Services, the city retains the value of HI-5 cans dropped into blue bins. The city will release details, including the number of HI-5 cans that are recycled in blue bins, late this summer, Owens said.

Recyclables scavenged from blue bins reduce the money available to the city, but more important is that the material get recycled , Owens said.

"It's to the benefit to us moneywise, but the bottom line would be as long as it's being recycled" city officials are pleased, Owens said.