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Frequently Asked Questions about Refuse and Recycling

Q: Where can I find my recycling, refuse, and bulky item collection schedule?

Q: What if my automated cart has been damaged or stolen?

Q: A neighbor puts the trash (or recyclables) out days before it is collected and makes our block look terrible. When can it be put out?

Q: A neighbor leaves their refuse and recycling carts at the curb every day. Is that allowed?

Q: My trash/recyclables were not collected. I put my (gray, blue, or green) cart out at the proper time, but it wasn't emptied. What do I do now?

Q: Why did the bulky collection crew pick up some of my items and leave others behind?

Q: I'm cleaning out the garage and have a lot of refuse to get rid of right away. Where can I dispose of it?

Q: Why is the convenience center gate sometimes closed during the day?

Q: What do I do with paint, motor oil, car batteries, and other household hazardous wastes?

Q: How do I get rid of my old computer (and other electronic waste)? Are there recycling options?

Q: How do I recycle my Christmas tree?

Q: My family generates more rubbish than will fit in the automated cart. Can I get another?

Q: My family has a large yard and/or recycles a lot of material. How can I get an additional green or blue cart?

Q: Can I refill my cart with excess rubbish/recyclables and push it across the street to have it emptied a second time when the refuse truck returns to service neighbors on the other side?

Q: I live in an area that does not have curbside recycling. Where can I take household recyclables?

Q: Why aren’t more types of paper and plastic collected in the City’s curbside recycling program?

Q: Where are the HI-5 redemption centers located?

Q: Are recycling containers available for our program?

Q: Where can we get assistance to coordinate a recycling fundraiser?

Q: Is it possible to visit H-POWER and other recycling facilities on the island?

Q: I'm working on a recycling research project for school. Where can I find information and get assistance?

Q: Where can I find my recycling, refuse, and bulky item collection schedule?

Collection schedules are available online. There is a direct link from the opala home page. Click here and type in your address. When you access your collection schedule information page, you’ll find printable collection schedule calendars for easy reference.

Q: What if my automated cart has been damaged or stolen?

Damaged carts should be reported to the nearest collection yard. Our supervisors can often repair broken wheels or lid hinges; otherwise, the cart will be replaced. Report a stolen cart first to the Honolulu Police Department. When you have the police report number, call the nearest collection yard for a replacement cart.

Q: A neighbor puts the trash (or recyclables) out days before it is collected and makes our block look terrible. When can it be put out?

Refuse, whether it is household trash, mixed recyclables, green waste, or bulky items such as appliances and furniture, should be set out at the curb no earlier than the evening before the scheduled collection day. Report infractions to the nearest collection yard.

Q: A neighbor leaves their refuse and recycling carts at the curb every day. Is that allowed?

Refuse containers, including automated collection carts, must be returned to the resident's property after they have been emptied. Only specifically authorized elderly or disabled automated collection customers may permanently store their carts in the public right-of-way. Report infractions to the nearest collection yard.

Q: My trash/recyclables were not collected. I put my (gray, blue, or green) cart out at the proper time, but it wasn't emptied. What do I do now?

Check the cart for our tag. It may have been blocked by a parked car, too bulky or heavy, contain the wrong type of material or uncollectible for some other reason; the tag will explain why it wasn't collected. Improperly prepared or inaccessible refuse will be picked up on your next collection day, when the reason for non-collection has been corrected. If there is no tag, leave the cart at the curb and report it to the nearest collection yard.

Q: Why did the bulky collection crew pick up some of my items and leave others behind?

Some items go to the landfill while others are recycled. Different trucks collect different types of materials. The "white goods" flatbed truck will pick up appliances and metal items separately so they can be delivered to the metal recycling facility. Refrigerant must be removed from refrigerators and air conditioners before the metal is recycled. Other types of items, including old furniture, carpet and mattresses are taken to the landfill in a rear-loading packer truck. If you think any of these items are reusable, check the list of reuse organizations before you place them at the curb for disposal.

Q: I'm cleaning out the garage and have a lot of refuse to get rid of right away. Where can I dispose of it?

City landfills, transfer stations, and convenience centers will accept, for free, rubbish delivered by residents. The limitations are: two loads per customer per day; passenger cars and vans or pickup trucks only (no trailers, flatbeds, dump trucks, or commercial vans). You may also be asked to segregate certain materials at the disposal site for recycling. Click here for disposal site listings.

Q: Why is the convenience center gate sometimes closed during the day?

Convenience centers are very popular, and the amount of material they handle continues to increase. In addition, different materials must be placed in separate bins -- combustible household trash is burned for energy at H-POWER; green waste is delivered to mulching/composting sites; metals are sold to a metals recycler; appliances are hauled to a recycling company for refrigerant removal and recycling; and noncombustible, mixed loads are taken to the landfill. Bins are constantly being removed throughout the day to be emptied and replaced, but there may be short periods when the bins for one or more types of material are full, and the gate must be closed until empty bins are returned.

Q: What do I do with paint, motor oil, car batteries, and other household hazardous wastes?

Paint and motor oil must be completely dried with absorbent material to prevent spills before being placed in your rubbish for regular collection. Car batteries should be turned in where you bought the new one; also, most battery dealers will accept batteries for recycling, even if you didn't buy a new one from them. Other household hazardous wastes may require special handling -- call our household hazardous waste phone line at 768-3201 and tell us what and how much you have.

Q: How do I get rid of my old computer (and other electronic waste)? Are there recycling options?

Numerous recycling and reuse options are listed on our ewaste page. New Hawaii state law requires electronics manufacturers to develop and finance take-back programs. Starting in January 2010, the law applied to computers and expanded to include televisions in 2011. Disposal of ewaste is banned for commercial and government, under regulations established by the EPA. Those regulations do not apply to households, thereby allowing collection and disposal with your regular trash or bulky pickup.

Q: How do I recycle my Christmas tree?

First, consider artificial or live potted trees that won't require disposal or recycling. (In 2003, The New York Times reported that 70 percent of the Christmas trees in American households were fake.) If you go with a cut tree, please recycle. Island residents can choose curbside collection or drop-off at City refuse convenience centers. Click here for more information. Condos and commercial buildings can deliver large loads of trees directly to composting facilities–there will be no charge for Christmas trees, courtesy of the City. And consider recycling your yard waste year-round. Each year 50 percent of all the Christmas trees or approximately 300 tons are recycled. If we recycled just 50 percent of our household yard waste, we could divert 50,000 tons from disposal.

Q: My family generates more rubbish than will fit in the automated cart. Can I get another?

Yes, a second refuse cart is possible if the volume of non-recyclable refuse from your household consistently exceeds the capacity of the cart. Mixed recyclables and green waste must be sorted out to the blue and green carts, and the remaining refuse should be reasonably compacted to make best use of space. To confirm need, a refuse supervisor will monitor your gray cart for a period of weeks to assess the volume and check for recyclables. You may request to have your household’s refuse monitored by calling 768-3200 – the first step required in getting an additional gray cart.

Q: My family has a large yard and/or recycles a lot of material. How can I get an additional green or blue cart?

Please call 768-3200 to request additional recycling carts. Recycling Branch staff will ask a few questions to process your request and to confirm your household’s need of the additional carts. Additional green carts can be issued based upon the square footage of your property. Additional blue carts based upon a description of the types and volumes of mixed recyclables. The household must be making use of all available recycling collection days.

Q: Can I refill my cart with excess rubbish/recyclables and push it across the street to have it emptied a second time when the refuse truck returns to service neighbors on the other side?

Strictly speaking, a driver is required to empty a cart only once each collection day. Second pickups could drastically lengthen a driver's work day when refuse volume is large, as it is during the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's holidays and during the middle of summer. It is therefore left to a driver's discretion whether to accommodate second pickups, and in the spirit of aloha, many will.

If the driver servicing your route is not so inclined, you must hold the excess until the next collection day. There are also recycling and disposal alternatives to be considered (see our "What Goes Where" checklist) to reduce the amount of excess. And if your household frequently generates excess rubbish, green waste, or mixed recyclables, you may qualify for another cart (see the two previous FAQs).

Q: I live in an area that does not have curbside recycling. Where can I take household recyclables?

Drop-off recycling centers are located around the island. For more information, go to Recycling Centers. Go to HI-5 Redemption Centers for islandwide locations to redeem deposits on beverage containers.

Q: Why aren’t more types of paper and plastic collected in the City’s curbside recycling program?

The low-grade, low-value plastics and paper, including the number 3-7 plastics, junk mail, cereal boxes, magazines and telephone books, provide greater benefit in local energy production than in shipping to distant markets to be made into new products. Our H-POWER waste-to-energy facility currently produces 7 percent of Oahu's electricity, contributing to our island's energy sustainability. We target the high-value materials for recycling and designate the lower value to WTE. Both divert the waste from the landfill to beneficial use. Click here for more information on curbside recycling (including a list of accepted material).

Q: Where are the HI-5 redemption centers located?

Updated locations and hours of operation are posted on the State's website, http://www.hi5deposit.com/.. The Hawaii State Department of Health oversees and administers the statewide HI-5 program.

Q: Are recycling containers available for our program?

The City is offering wheeled recycling carts to schools, non-profit organizations and condominium properties to support the collection of recyclable materials. The City also offers 40-cubic yard recycling fundraiser bins. For guidelines and request forms go to Recycling Fundraiser Resources.

Q: Where can we get assistance to coordinate a recycling fundraiser?

The HI-5 beverage container deposit program provides opportunities for schools or non-profit organizations to raise significant funds through collection drives. The City can provide collection containers, banners and lists of recycling companies and collectors who are interested in working with you. Call 768-3200 or to Recycling Fundraisers.

Q: Is it possible to visit H-POWER and other recycling facilities on the island?

The City coordinates public tours of Oahu's waste processing and recycling facilities.
Tour de Trash offers a series of full-day tours that allow you to get an up-close look at our island's waste and recycling operations and a peek behind the "employees only" doors at local businesses that have instituted successful recycling programs. You can sign up for a tour by calling 768-3200. For tour descriptions and schedules go to Tour de Trash. The tours are very popular and book quickly.

Q: I'm working on a recycling research project for school. Where can I find information and get assistance?

You are already here. Our website contains a wealth of information on recycling and waste composition data, a "History of Garbage in Paradise", master planning studies and reports, descriptions of recycling programs and operations, photos, graphics, video clips, music and an archive of local and national news stories on waste and recycling. Start on the home page and use the navigation buttons to peruse the various pages. Find project ideas and teaching tools in the "Learning Center". Graphics, photos, video clips in the “Media Library.” Studies, reports, composition data in the “Resource Library.” City recycling staff are also available to answer questions and help you focus your topic. Call 768-3200.

© 2005 City & County of Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services.