Illegal Dumping

Illegal dumping and littering are intolerable. Many individuals, organizations and government agencies have worked for years to conduct cleanups and community education, and to everyone's frustration the dumping and littering continues... and in many cases returns to the same area just cleaned up.

If it were simply a matter of intelligence and commitment, this problem would have been solved years ago by so many who have made the effort.

Worldwide, communities grapple with illegal dumping. Locally, we are looking for solutions through education, enforcement and collaboration. The City runs the transfer stations and convenience centers, handles refuse collection and bulky item pickup. City property is a victim of illegal dumping. The City is committed to addressing the problem by working with other agencies, community leaders, industry and elected officials.


The City surveyed prevention programs in other states and looked carefully at those with the best track records. Across the board, engaging communities affected by the problem is the most effective means of cleaning up sites and preventing recurrence.

In the fall 2003, the City invited interested parties to join a Coalition to Stop Illegal Dumping. The coalition helped draft a definition of the problem and give some direction to government efforts, including extending hours of operation at disposal facilities and establishing a central report line for the public. In addition to making it easier for the public to get clean up action, the report line enabled the City to gather data on chronic dumping areas and to further asses the issues. Since the inception of the Environmental Concern Line, the City has fielded over 1,400 reports, resulting in quicker response for cleanups and some enforcements efforts.

Environmental Concern Line: 768-3300

The City conducted a public survey to assess perspectives about illegal dumping. The public’s frustration with illegal dumping was apparent. Ninety-one percent of the residents surveyed described illegal dumping as a “somewhat or very serious” problem.  Also 91 percent had never reported an incident of illegal dumping, but 86 perecnt of those people said they would in the future. To help facilitate public reporting, the City established the Environmental Concern Line, a single, central report line for all types of illegal dumping. The City fields all calls and expedites cleanup efforts by identifing the responsible party/parties and referring the reports to the appropriate entities for action.

The central report line enabled the City to gather data on chronic problem areas, and to allocate additional resources when possible, including doubling the frequency of bulky collection in the area and altering HPD to be vigilant. Additional measures include education of area residents regarding bulky collection schedules and setout guidelines.

Some illegal dumping is a deliberate criminal act; some may be due to ignorance. Reports of illegal dumping have lead to criminal investigations and reductions of dumping frequency in certain areas, but culprits are difficult to catch in the act and prosecute.

What is Illegal Dumping?

Illegal dumping is disposal of waste in an unpermitted area. Illegally dumped wastes are primarily nonhazardous materials dumped to avoid disposal fees or the time and effort required for proper disposal.
  • construction and demolition waste (drywall, roofing shingles, lumber, bricks, concrete, siding)
  • abandoned automobiles, auto parts, scrap tires
  • appliances or “white goods”
  • furniture
  • yard waste
  • household trash
  • medical waste (potentially hazardous)
  • barrels (hazardous)
  • residents that ignore or are ignorant to bulky item collection schedules and place items at the curbside

Sites include abandoned industrial, residential or commercial buildings; vacant lots; public or private property; and infrequently used alleys or roadways. (Coalition members note that frequently used areas are also subject to dumping.) Accessibility and poor lighting make rural roads particularly vulnerable. Illegal dumping occurs at any time, but is more common at night or in the early morning.

Profile of illegal dumpers: (there is no “typical” dumper)

  • construction, demolition, remodeling, roofing or landscaping contractors
  • waste management companies or general hauling contractors
  • operators of transfer stations or junkyards
  • automobile repair or tire shops
  • scrap collectors
  • local residents, do-it-yourselfers

The City & County has adapted this information for Oahu from the EPA Region 5 Illegal Dumping Prevention Guidebook.

We'd like to introduce you to a fairly new song that just seemed to be written to help us educate the public about this problem. "Put Opala in Its Place," written by Angie Baker and performed by the Lava Jam Band, from the Big Island.
© 2005 City & County of Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services.