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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Long lines, confusion at redemption centers

 •  Common questions about recycling law
 •  Getting your deposit back: The recycling centers

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Redemption centers struggled to cope with long lines and some confusion yesterday as residents around the state turned out in droves to return empty bottles and cans to get back their 5-cent deposit under a new law.

Audrey Chinen, of Palolo, yesterday collected $48.90 at a redemption center in Mo'ili'ili. Although she felt that the redemption process went much faster than she had anticipated, other O'ahu residents got impatient with the long lines and confusion yesterday.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Calvin Akamu yesterday used a reverse vending machine set up to accept recyclable beverage containers at Reynolds Recycling in Halawa.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

It was the first full day of the redemption side of the program, and there was some grumbling about waits that reached an hour in some locations.

By the end of the day, state officials and the private companies operating the redemption centers vowed to increase hours and open more centers as Hawai'i gets through the transition of becoming the 11th state in the nation to enact a "bottle bill" that requires a deposit on most beverage containers.

At the Mo'ili'ili center run by Reynolds Recycling Co., some customers complained yesterday that the long wait would discourage recycling.

Artist Babs Miyano-Young, who lives in Pacific Heights, said the system needs to be more efficient for it to work.

"I think most people are not going to be willing to stand in line for an hour," she said.

She got back $6.83 after her hour's wait, but she remained optimistic overall.

"I'll still recycle," she said. "It's good for the land."

Others weren't sure that they were getting their money's worth when the staff weighed the cans rather than counting them by the piece to save time. But Reynolds Recycling President Terry Telfer said the $1.50 a pound paid for the aluminum cans should come close to the nickel apiece rate and gets people in and out of the facility faster.

People with fewer than 50 containers can request a hand count so they receive their nickel apiece; those with more than 50 containers will have their empties weighed.

Learn more:

For more information, visit www.hawaii.gov/
or call 586-4226

Many sites are listed at www.reynolds
and at www.opala.org.

Kailua resident Sam Chun was concerned about the old, unlabeled containers. He thinks the state should have given residents a longer transition period so that people could turn in their old cans at the old higher rate.

He complained that he used to get more than $20 for 100 pounds of cans, but that the unlabeled containers now will garner him only about $5.

"To me, it wasn't fair," Chun said. He said he usually gives the money to his grandkids, so the big drop in fees frustrates him. "I feel like flying the cans already," he said.

Overall, though, Genevieve Salmonson, director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control, said the statewide system seemed to working reasonably well. Despite the lines, she said she saw the recyclers working to handle customers by adding staff and hours.

Telfer and Salmonson said the lines are likely to be long this week — as expected — because people have been saving the containers since retailers could start charging the 5-cent deposits on Nov. 1.

Telfer urged people to be patient and let the crowds ease up.

"Don't rush down just because you can," he said.

The rush actually began Sunday, when only a few centers were open to take back the containers after the new law kicked in Saturday.

A mobile recycling truck run by RRR Recycling Services Hawai'i had planned to open only from 8 a.m. to noon on Sunday but stayed open until 5 p.m. and collected 40,000 containers in Kane'ohe, said Salmonson.

She said the state will continue to try to improve the system. Telfer said he hired 16 more people this week and will increase hours across the state.

Dos and Don'ts

• Do remove caps from bottles

• Don't throw them on the ground

• Do separate glass, plastic and aluminum containers and further split them into labeled and unlabeled because recyclers pay different rates for different materials

• Don't crush the cans

• Do empty the containers, even though you don't have to wash them

• Do check the hours of the redemption centers; some are increasing hours to meet demand

• Don't rush to redeem cans this week as lines are likely to be longer because people have 60-plus days' worth of cans

Source: Reynolds Recycling Co.

At the Mo'ili'ili center, Palolo resident Audrey Chinen carted in six big bags full of bottles and cans that she collected from aunties and friends and neighbors. And then she got some more from another customer unwilling to wait in line.

About 25 minutes later, Chinen pocketed $48.90.

"It's not bad," she said. "It went faster than I thought it would."

City lifeguard dispatcher Rob Miller carried three bags of recyclables on his bike from his home in Manoa to the Mo'ili'ili center. He said the new law is converting him from an "off-and-on" recycler to a dedicated one.

Marc Konno works as an educational assistant at a Honolulu high school and saw an opportunity to earn some extra cash by rooting around the garbage cans at work. Yesterday, he got $15 for his time. "Not bad. I'm coming back," he said.

Rome Acopan, a city bus supervisor, waited in line at Halawa with a pickup truck full of containers. He thinks Hawai'i should have followed Oregon's example by having the stores that sell the drinks collect the empties.

Acopan said his son lives in Oregon and has seen that system work well for years. But Salmonson said stores fought against being required to set up redemption centers.

Halawa resident Calvin Akamu said he recycles his empties for extra cash. Yesterday, he tried the reverse vending machines at the Halawa Valley headquarters of Reynolds Recycling and liked the quick service.

"It worked great," he said. He fed 42 cans — mostly Budweiser — into the machine in under three minutes and got a receipt worth $4.35.

What will he do with his deposit money? "Buy some beer," he said with a smile.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2429.