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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 7, 2005

Tourists kept in dark on recycling

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

Toronto resident Tony Bergamin knows he paid a 5-cent deposit on his bottled soda in Waikiki and is accustomed to doing his part to recycle.

Reynaldo Baldovi, a steward/sorter at Sheraton Waikiki, sifts through the hotel's trash to separate items that will be recycled. Among hotels that have some form of recycling are Marriott, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Outrigger Enterprises and Aston Hotels & Resorts.

Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

But that bottle, as well as other beverage containers he buys during his stay here, will likely end up in the trash because there are no redemption centers or public recycling bins in Waikiki.

"I can save up my bottles and bring them over someplace where I can get some money back — that's a possible thing to do — but we're on vacation," said the 32-year-old singer. "Even though I would characterize myself as someone who is conscientious about these things, it's a bit of a hassle. I like the idea better that I can just drop it off in a bin somewhere and it will be recycled."

Bergamin and other visitors interviewed by The Advertiser last week said they don't care much about losing their 5-cent deposits during their vacations. But they were surprised that they couldn't find any signs of recycling efforts in the area.

"As a tourist, I don't know what to do with the bottle," said 62-year-old Washington resident Joneda Marks.

Marks, who used to live in Hawai'i, said she thinks the new bottle-deposit law is a great way to promote recycling.

But "when you go to the room, they don't tell you where to put them; they don't tell you if you should separate them," she said. "I don't know if I should put it in the trash. Are you supposed to put it on the side? They don't give you that kind of information."

Consumers started paying a 5-cent deposit on eligible containers Nov. 1. Since Jan. 1 they have been able to get back their deposit by taking containers to redemption centers.

State and city officials say there are no immediate plans to establish redemption centers or recycling bins in the area but note that the bottle law is still new and will stimulate more recycling activities.

Last year an average 171,569 visitors were in Hawai'i on any given day, with nearly half of them on O'ahu, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Tourism officials expect the number of tourists will not only increase this year but will set a record.

At least some of the beverage containers used by visitors are handled by restaurants and hotels. Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol are required to recycle glass bottles, and at least some hotels already recycle beverage containers and other items.

The new bottle law that went into effect Jan. 1 requires a redemption center to be within two miles of a high-density area, said state Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo. The Mo'ili'ili center serves the Waikiki area and there is also a mobile redemption site in Kahala.

"The issue with Waikiki is the difficulty in finding space there," Okubo said. "That's the primary reason why at this time we don't have anything set up. ... We're open to having something there but at this point we don't have any lead as to what location would be available."

Okubo added that she hopes nonprofit organizations will partner with various businesses and others to recycle containers as a way to raise money.

Gov. Linda Lingle's senior policy adviser, Linda Smith, said the administration would like to change the law to allow grocery or convenience stores to keep the deposits rather than turn them over to the state. That would give them the financial incentive to let consumers return empty containers and redeem their deposits there, she said. For every container that is not returned the store would get to pocket the deposit.

Hotels with recycling programs

Many hotel companies in Hawai'i already have recycling programs:

• Sheraton hotels on O'ahu and Maui sort through trash and separate plastic, aluminum cans, paper and other items for pick up by a recycler.

• Marriott's 15 Hawai'i properties have recycling programs.

• Hilton Hawaiian Village recycles glass beverage containers and other items.

• Outrigger Enterprises has its trash collected by a licensed recycler.

• Several properties in the Aston Hotels & Resorts chain are starting recycling programs.

City spokesman Bill Brennan said city officials believe recyclables are making it into the recycle stream, especially with the implementation of the bottle law. But he said the administration is examining its recycling policies and looking into providing recycle bins in public areas such as city parks. He also said city officials would be happy to work with organizations interested in recycling.

City recycling coordinator Suzanne Jones said the bottle deposit law just went into effect "and a lot of these collection systems are going to evolve." She also said a waste audit should be conducted before placing recycling bins in the area.

"This new deposit system provides a new economic base upon which we're going to be able to build these types of collection systems all across the island ... on commercial properties, on city properties, everyplace where people wonder how come we don't have a recycling container here," she said. "This is going to help establish those containers and support those collections."

Hawai'i hotels vary on the disposal of beverage containers. Hotel officials said the number of bottles and cans left in guest rooms is minimal.

The Sheraton hotels on O'ahu and Maui sort through trash and separate plastic, aluminum cans, paper and other items for pick up by a recycler. Marriott's 15 Hawai'i properties have recycling programs and the Hilton Hawaiian Village recycles glass beverage containers and other items.

Nancy Daniels, a spokeswoman for Outrigger Enterprises, said housekeepers often set aside glass bottles, which are recycled along with bottles from hotel restaurants.

"The company we contract to collect our trash in Waikiki is a licensed recycler, so any further recycling is handled by the trash company once the trash leaves our premises," she said.

A couple of Hawai'i properties in the Aston Hotels & Resorts chain are starting recycling programs and others are looking at ways to establish similar systems, a spokesman said.

In any case, visitors appear interested in helping the state recycle.

Jones said she has received e-mails from visitors "asking us why we're not doing more recycling."

"They also were many times unaware of all the recycling that was happening behind the scenes," she said. "They wanted to visibly see that we had a very strong commitment to recycling. They wanted to see it on the beverage containers, and they wanted to see the collection containers. I think sometimes the hotels and the restaurants are reluctant to show that side. They want to take care of everything for the visitors.

"I think there's a lot of strong support from our visitors to participate and to help us keep the islands clean. So I think that they will appreciate the placement of containers throughout Waikiki."

One such visitor is New Jersey construction manager Joe MacDougall.

"I'm kind of surprised that Hawai'i's not up to date with that," said MacDougall, 39, who added that he would drop recyclables off if receptacles were conveniently located.

"Yeah, I'd definitely do it because I want to do the right thing," he said. "Not because of the money. I'd just do it because it's the right thing to do."

Reach Lynda Arakawa at 535-2470 or larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com.