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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Recycling fee won’t be hiked

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

There will be no increase in the 6-cent deposit fee consumers pay per beverage container this year, state officials said yesterday.

The fee was expected to rise a half-cent per bottle or can based on recycling projections made earlier this year. Consumers now pay a 5-cent redeemable deposit and a 1-cent nonrefundable administrative fee for each container.

The state also pays an additional 2 to 3 cents to the recycling companies to cover processing and shipping costs.

The HI 5˘ law requires the administrative fee to go up by a half-cent if the redemption rate hits 70 percent. In May, the Health Department said residents were redeeming containers at 71 percent.

Yesterday, however, the department said that the redemption rate for the fiscal year ending June 30 was 68 percent. State officials will review the numbers a year from now to see if the fee should be increased.

"It's a matter of more accurate numbers than a decline in recycling," said Janice Okubo, Health Department spokeswoman.

She said the earlier projections were based on monthly reports from redemption center operators, but not all reports were complete. The year-end numbers were based on reports from the businesses that do the actual recycling, Okubo said.

Consumers and the state had been placed in a "good news/bad news" situation. The more people recycled, the more likely the fee would be increased.

Also, the state keeps the money from deposits that are not redeemed, and that money helps to run the program.

"If there are no unredeemed containers, if everything is redeemed, then there's no money to keep the program running," Okubo said. "Recycling is a difficult business in Hawai'i because the material needs to be shipped to the Mainland."

But the state encourages people to continue to recycle. Okubo said the law could always be changed.

The Lingle administration had asked the Legislature to give the Health Department the discretion to adjust the 1-cent fee, but that proposal died this past session.

The state reported that more than 620 million containers were recycled and that consumers were refunded about $39 million in the 12-month period ending June 30. More than $13 million was paid in handling fees, the state said.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.