City's green-waste pickup might not be so green after all


POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Perhaps you recall back in December our astute print and broadcast media reported that after-holiday Christmas tree pickups will take place as usual, just leave them at the curb and they will magically disappear ... or so they thought!

Now, hard up against February, I find our tree still waits patiently for its chance to go to mulch heaven. And with no movement in sight, I decided to place the tree into our shiny new government-issued green waste can for last week's pickup. The tree stood proudly in the container extending its head about 18 inches out as if it were looking down the street in anticipation of the truck ride that would have taken it to its ultimate transformation into nutrient-rich green ground cover ... or so it thought!

Let's step back in time to the mayor's big announcement that green waste pickup is being extended to more of Honolulu's beautiful neighborhoods. To our delight, our shiny new green automated waste can arrived late last year along with its helpful instruction packet and schedule. “;Ah, finally we get to bathe in the glow of knowing we are helping the planet while making Honolulu a more beautiful place to live”; ... or so we thought!

  Here's the rub. One green can is not sufficient for most yards. Opala News Flash: This is the tropics, and green stuff grows wild here. Sure, the mayor thought this through, offering up to two additional green cans—but if your yard is larger than his office, three cans a month are sorely insufficient. Consequently, our beautiful neighborhoods are becoming increasingly littered with black waste bags filled with the excessive green waste that didn't fit in the allotted cans, all stacked at the curb like shiny black plastic monuments to imprudent policy.

Obvious questions arise: How are we to keep up with this “;growing”; problem (pun very much intended)? No answer from Opala.org, that's for sure. And who on Earth is responsible for calculating our “;green waste footprint”; and setting our pickup schedule?

I'll venture to bet that much of our present Opala policy was born not from insightful analysis of our needs and a workable budget, but from a multitude of meetings with the public workers unions and that far-left faction of policy influence, the Sierra Club. But that's another round of drinks!

Forward to the present: Even with the best of intentions, our new feel-good green public policy has gone awry, leaving our beautiful neighborhoods strewn with piles of black trash bags scattered everywhere and growing. For a lack of storage space, our roadways stand victim to a whole host of government-issued automated waste containers of varied colors displayed conspicuously like miniature Christmas Island monoliths. By shifting to a single gray trash pickup per week policy, our rat population flourishes. And adding to this eyesore, our little Christmas tree still sadly waits patiently for its ride accompanied by the seemingly ever-present bulk trash items.

  This should be filed under “;The Unbelievable but True”;; during last week's pickup the Opala driver made an executive decision, undoubtedly fully supported by union policy, to stop his truck, open the door, jump to the ground, walk over to our memory of Christmas past, brutally yank this sweet innocent tree out of our shiny can and throw it unmercifully to the ground. What a waste of effort. And why? Because! Its little head (the tree's, not the driver's) stood out of the can 18 inches—an unforgivable infraction on my part that will surely soon be added as the Eighth Deadly Sin.

  I fully accept that there might be no viable solution for bureaucratic gaffes. But how about this; why not keep the blue can for twice-monthly feel-good recyclable pickup, go back to twice a week for the gray and trash the green cans, and acknowledge the gigantic waste of tax dollars. We Honolulu taxpayers are easy to forgive. Then reinstate the twice-a-month green waste program that worked—you remember, bundle up or fill as many black trash bags as needed placed at the curb for pickup. The black bags are out there anyway under the present plan with no hope of getting picked up.

Who wins? The unions will be happy to have three people back on the truck. The bag manufacturers and suppliers will throw out their plans to cut back production and gladly boost the economy to boot. Miraculously, our neighborhoods become beautiful again. After dumping the green cans altogether, we get to reclaim that parking space we reluctantly relinquished to store them. And happily, no more abuse of our Christmas trees. Don't you wish all of life's solutions could be this simple?


Peter Aiello lives in Honolulu.