Monday, February 5, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, February 5, 2001

Bottle bill aims to boost recycling

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

Island recycling interests hope Hawaii’s roadsides soon will be free of bottles and cans because they’ll be too valuable to throw away or leave in the weeds.

A range of interests has joined for the first time in support of a bottle bill, now before the Legislature, which would place a redemption charge on all beverage containers — glass, plastic and aluminum — to encourage more recycling. A 12-ounce bottle or can would have a fee of five cents attached that would be paid back upon return of the empty.

Until this year, the Honolulu recycling office has opposed bottle bills while it enacted more cost-effective ways to promote recycling.

"We wanted to set up voluntary recycling systems. That was the lowest-cost, most fiscally responsible way to go. We needed to see how far we could take the other strategies," said Suzanne Jones, the city’s recycling coordinator.

Counties, the state government and recyclers have now joined in support of a statewide bottle bill, but the beverage industry will oppose it.

"This will do the job, but it will accomplish the task by throwing a lot of money at it," said Richard Botti, president of the Hawaii Food Industry Association, which represents retailers and suppliers.

A collaborative bill has been introduced in the Legislature as House Bill 1256 and Senate Bill 1351. It is expected initially to work its way through the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee and the Senate Water Land and Energy Committee, and then to be passed on to other committees for review.

The bill’s supporters include the state Department of Health, state Office of Environmental Quality Control, the Honolulu Department of Environmental Services, the Maui, Hawaii and Kauai departments of Public Works, Island Recycling Co., TOMRA Recycling Network, Ho-nolulu Recovery Systems, Recycling Systems Hawaii, Aloha Plastic Recycling, Aloha Glass Recycling, the Sierra Club, Life of the Land and the University of Hawaii Sea Grant program.

Jones said a bottle bill has been shown to be the most efficient way of getting beverage containers out of the weeds and trash and into the recycling stream. Roughly half of streetside litter is beverage containers.

"The primary purpose of the proposed container deposit law is to significantly increase residential recovery of aluminum, glass and plastic recyclable containers. Existing drop-off systems on Oahu and the Neighbor Islands are capturing approximately 20 percent," she said.

A curbside recyclables collection process could bring in 40 to 60 percent, but would be very expensive, she said. Ten states have bottle bills, and find they are collecting 80 percent or more of the containers. Once enacted, no bottle bill has ever been repealed, but they have been difficult to enact over the objections of beverage distributors, she said.

Botti said the industry feels voluntary recycling should be given more support.

"In essence, what’s happening is that not enough people recycle · (Under a bottle bill) people would pay a fee to cover those who don’t clean up after themselves," he said. Botti estimated the bill could cost consumers at least $10 million a year, although much of that would be refunded.

For businesses, the bill would be a hassle, he said.

"We’ve got to keep records, got to collect the money and give it back. It’s a pain for everybody," Botti said.

The essence of the bottle bill in its current form is that every beverage container sold in Hawaii would be labeled with a deposit amount. Single-serving containers such as a 12-ounce beer or cola can would come with a 5-cent redeemable fee, plus a 2-cent container fee that would not be redeemable. Giant-size containers would have a 15-cent redeemable fee, plus the 2-cent container fee. The 2-cent charge would be used to pay for the administration of the system.

Stores themselves could handle the redemption, but would not need to if an independent or retailer-operated redemption center were within a mile of the store. Redemption centers would receive a handling fee, mostly paid out of the 2-cent container fee, but also out of the proceeds from containers that were never redeemed.

The state Health Department’s Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch would administer the bottle bill program, handling the container fees, paying redemption centers and making inspections.

An existing 1 1/2-cent glass bottle recycling fee, now collected on every glass container sold in Hawaii, would be removed from glass beverage bottles.

Jones said that commercial recycling has been going well in the state, but that the general public has been less successful at recycling beverage containers.

"This economic incentive of getting your deposit back is what it takes · I do have the confidence that this is the time to do this," Jones said.

She said recycling firms have indicated that increased volume should make it easier to find sources for the ultimate disposal of recyclables, which is often a problem. While aluminum currently is a relatively high-value recyclable, finding markets for glass and plastic has been a problem.

Some glass is used as base for roadways, and some plastic is recycled into benches, fence posts and other items at a plastics recycling firm on Maui that has suffered from lack of supply.

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