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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 7, 2002

Bottle bill reopens debate on recycling

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

Backers of a bottle deposit bill are still hopeful the Legislature will pass a measure requiring deposits for beverage containers this session, but they know they have a fight on their hands.

Legislative analyst Renee Thompson uses a machine in the State Capitol basement that demonstrates a potential method of redeeming deposits made on soft-drink containers.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

State Rep. Hermina Morita, D-12th (N. Kauai, E. Maui), who heads the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, said she expects the Legislature to support the bottle bill.

But the food and beverage industry is trying hard to block it.

House Bill 1256 was held in a House-Senate conference committee in the 2001 session and has not been brought forward for action as legislators study alternatives to address the state's recycling issues.

The bill would place a deposit on drink containers and establish a statewide system for redemption of those containers. To help familiarize legislators with available technology, the Honolulu city government's recycling office has placed a container redemption machine next to the soda machines in the State Capitol basement.

Meanwhile, the food and drink industry has been holding meetings with legislators to sell an alternative plan calling for statewide curbside recycling. That plan would require no action by the Legislature, calling on the counties to set up programs. The industry says the plan would recover far more than beverage containers and result in a greater rate of recycling overall.

The consultant for the industry, Cascadia Consulting Group, argues that its plan could get recycling accomplished at a fraction of the cost of a bottle bill. But recycling officials say they have already tried curbside recycling, and have data that show it is far too expensive.

All four counties, along with the state Department of Health, are on record supporting the bottle bill.

Morita said she was disappointed that the industry-proposed plan did not address the large number of soft-drink containers used outside the home and thus failed to address a major source of litter.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-1st (Hawi, N. Kona, Waimea), has proposed a pilot bottle recycling bill for the Big Island. A hearing on Senate Bill 2005 was held by the Senate Committee on Water, Land, Energy and the Environment yesterday.

The bill would establish a deposit on containers for the Big Island, and the county would use that money to hire private firms to set up redemption centers.

While Hawai'i County supports the plan, the industry considers it unworkable.

Dick Botti of the Hawai'i Food Industry Association said that relabeling bottles designated for the Big Island would be a serious problem.

"If you have to do labeling for only one county, you have a monster of a job separating inventory," Botti said.

It would be simpler to have a statewide bottle bill than to have one on just one island, he said.