HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - City officials admit they "bit off more than they can chew" with their bulky item trash pick-up program, but they say they're not the only ones to blame. Consistent, scheduled bulky item pick-up is unheard of in most cities, especially when it's offered for free as it is here in Honolulu. Officials say the service started out as a convenience and to combat illegal dumping, but it's plagued by delays because residents have abused it.
"The problem is the city's not doing their job and this has been there for one week," said Teddy Amim-Petwa, a Makiki resident who is fed up with bulky items piling up on his street. "The city has to be responsible to make sure they keep everything clean."
Rich Shankles, who lives in the Liliha area, is equally unhappy. "It's an eyesore and a road hazard, 'cause people try to walk here. There's no sidewalk. Traffic here is pretty bad sometimes, so people have to walk into the road to get around it."
"We put bulky stuff out after moving in – it took well over two weeks for it to be picked up, probably closer to three weeks," said Shankles.
"ENV [Department of Environmental Services], the mayor, the city – is very apologetic to the public. This was never our intention when the program first came into existence. We thought we could keep up, but we can't," said Lori Kahikina, the Director of Environmental Services.
Delays vary by district, but the downtown metro area is the worst.
"Maybe two weeks behind, to just start the new sectors and we're still trying to catch up," described Kahikina. "As of this week, we were almost caught up but then – it's an un-ending battle. People keep putting out the trash and we cannot keep up."
Officials admit they're short-staffed and plan to fill 23 additional positions to fight the backlog. They're already paying overtime and using private contractors in an attempt to catch up.
Garrick Chang lives in Makiki near a bulky item pile, he says has grown out of control.
"This is about as worse as I've ever seen it, where it's now on to the sidewalk and it's also now spilling onto the roadway – so it presents a lot of danger," said Chang, who can't even use the sidewalk to walk his dog.
"As soon as the city picks it up, the very next day you'll start to see trash accumulating again. The timetable is kind of hard to determine because it's like continuous," explained Chang.
Officials say that's precisely the problem – residents are only supposed to set out their bulky items a day before their scheduled pick-up, which you can find online at http://www.opala.org/solid_waste/collection_schedule_search.html
They say delays worsen when crews are forced to spend too much time in one district, instead of the standard two and a half days, because people are abusing the system.
"When we do clear it away, it's like a magic – 'Hey, the trash disappears' – so people start to abuse it and they put it out again, even though they're not doing it according to the schedule," described Kahikina. "If we can get people to just stick to the schedule and stop the illegal dumping, our resources won't be stretched as much."
It is illegal to place bulky items at the curb if it's not your specified collection day. You can be fined up to $250, but officials say until they can get back on schedule they won't be citing anyone. As soon as they are adequately staffed though, they plan to start enforcing.
"I want to make that clear to the public, we're not out there to target people. If we're not sticking to our schedule, we cannot enforce on you either," said Kahikina.
When asked how the system would ideally work, Kahikina responded, "I don't think I would offer the service. Actually, I think I would be like the other cities and you are responsible for disposing of your trash or if the city does it for you, there has to be a fee to cover our expenses. Right now, we can't possibly cover the expenses of all the trash people are generating."