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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 17, 2006

Put bottle windfall to use by counties

The whole idea of recycling is to get usable materials out into circulation again.

So it makes no sense to collect a fee for recycling with each purchase of recyclable bottles and cans, and then hang on to that money when it could be spent to make our recycling efforts stronger.

While ordinarily it's good news to have money left over such as the $23 million in unclaimed redemption funds it's pointless to leave that money in a slush fund, when it could be put to good use.

The state HI-5 recycling program has seen redemption of recyclable bottles and cans on all islands increase to 73 percent of the total sold. And it's encouraging to hear estimates of nearly three out of every four containers brought back for the 5-cent deposit and that so many nonprofits have benefited from the fund-raising opportunity.

That still leaves a huge chunk of change just sitting there.

That fund should be divided among the counties on a per capita basis, to be used in the best way to improve the recycling effort on each island.

Big Island communities, for example, seem too far-flung for curbside recycling to be practical. The addition of new drop-off points, or the extension of operating hours at existing centers, might be the most reasonable use of money.

On O'ahu, the City Council has endorsed the establishment of a curbside program, so it would be smart to set aside some of this cash for startup expenses.

And there are other ways to decrease the flow of trash to the landfills. Greenwaste collections can help. So could the recycling participation of more retailers who sell the canned and bottled goods to begin with.

Having people return the bottles to the market makes sense, for the consumer and the business alike. Consumers would drop them off for the deposit but surely would shop while they're at it, too.

The collection of the container tax could be reduced at some point, if surpluses continue to build. But for now, there are ample uses for the money.