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Kokua Line: With more families at home, organizing trash before it’s collected is important for workers

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                                Trash bins line the curb along Wainiha St. in Hawaii Kai for pickup.


    Trash bins line the curb along Wainiha St. in Hawaii Kai for pickup.

Question: With “social distancing,” our family is spending a lot more time at home and we’re eating more at home, including takeout or drive-thru. Already I can see we have more rubbish than usual. With so many people on Oahu doing this … is the city prepared to handle more garbage along its residential routes? What are they seeing? It just seems like with everyone staying home and the kids not at school, there will be more garbage on those routes.

Answer: Garbage pickup on Oahu by the city’s Department of Environmental Services is a critical government function that is scheduled to operate as usual, even as other less essential city services are disrupted amid the global pandemic of COVID-19.

The department “is conducting business as usual for all trash collection and refuse facilities at this time,” department spokesman Markus Owens said Friday.

Garbage and recycling collection routes haven’t been adjusted because of COVID-19, “however, we have just completed annual route selections for our employees and very few routes were modified. When a route is modified, it is because the number of carts were increased in a particular route and routes were adjusted to make it more efficient.”

The department hasn’t detected a spike in residential garbage, but Owens did offer a statistic that may prove useful to you and other Oahu families hunkered down at home, engaged in telework, teleschool and other forms of physical-distancing to avoid catching or spreading the lethal coronavirus.

On Oahu’s three-cart automated routes, which have separate bins for garbage (gray), mixed recyclables (blue) and yard waste (green), only about 50% of households even place their blue cart at the curb for collection, and even those carts generally aren’t 100% full, he said.

That means many households likely could reduce the amount of rubbish going into the gray cart — you said yours is overflowing — by carefully sorting out the mixed recyclables and placing them in the blue cart.

Here are dos and don’ts for the blue carts, Owens said:

>> Do place “mixed recyclables” in the blue carts, which include newspaper, corrugated cardboard, white and colored office paper, paper bags, glass bottles and jars, metal cans and plastic containers marked with the #1 or #2 plastic codes. These numbers usually are embossed on the container within the “chasing arrows” symbol. Material must be clean. No lids or caps. Do not bag, tie or bundle the mixed recyclables; place them directly in the blue bin. The department emphasizes that all the mixed recyclables must fit in the cart with the lid closed. Flatten corrugated cardboard boxes if necessary.

>> Don’t place other paper, magazines, telephone books, glossy paper, cereal or tissue boxes in the blue bin. Also no other glass, such as drinking glasses, ceramics or window glass. And no other plastic, such as plastic bags, polystyrene foam (common with takeout meals), plastic tubs and plastic toys. If those items are to be discarded, they should go in the gray cart.

It makes sense that households may see their garbage increase as family members who used to eat lunch at school or work, for example, are eating at home. Making full use of the three-cart collection system may help balance the load.


Mahalo for the little act of kindness that sprang from the heart of the man who paid for my meal at Jackie’s eatery at Waimalu. Bless you. — A senior


Mahalo to my son-in-law, who, during this whole thing, is checking up on us and all our senior friends in the neighborhood, making sure we have groceries, etc. He won’t want his name in the paper but I wish everyone could know that he is such a good man. — Grateful mother-in-law

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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