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Honolulu Lite

CHARLES MEMMINGER

Sunday, April 22, 2001


There’s a message
in the Legislature’s
bottle bill

One of the first columns I ever wrote was an exceedingly thoughtful piece for the Wheeling Intelligencer wherein I proposed that wild, wonderful West Virginia pass a bottle bill and start charging a deposit for cans and other beverage containers.

I had just come from glorious, green Oregon where, when it came to the environment, we were smarter than everyone else. All you had to do was look at the evidence. I mean, Oregon was clean and gorgeous and the Ohio Valley part of West Virginia and neighboring Ohio were just a big ol' dump. Lucky I had come to town to straighten everyone out. There was so much to be done ! They had major problems: The streams all ran orange with coal mine tailings, the air was choked with smoke from the enormous smokestacks up and down the Ohio River and if you only had one car up on blocks in front of your trailer, well, you were a regular Ralph Nadar.

So I started off small, suggesting a bottle bill would be an obvious way to at least clean up the roadsides. My logic was unassailable, my motive pure. Unfortunately, my butt was in the wrong part of the country. I failed to notice that a lot of those smoke stacks belonged to steel factories and other industrial behemoths which were teetering on bankruptcy. The last thing all those large, swarthy beer-and-shot swillers wanted was a snot-nosed environmentalist right out of some foo-foo West Coast eco-college suggesting new ways for them to lose their jobs.

Most of the mail in reaction to the column came from the upriver towns of Stubenville and Weirton, where part of the movie "Deer Hunter" was filmed. The filmmakers exactly captured the gray, oppressing ambiance of the place. The steel workers didn't like my column, with a vengeance. They invited me to visit and had I, my life would be a lot different today, mainly because I'd be part of the steel foundation of a highway overpass.

Now Hawaii is on the verge of passing a bottle bill, and I find myself siding with the large swarthy fellows this time. I was right in West Virginia; it needed a bottle bill and heaps more like it. Hawaii doesn't, especially Oahu, which has a garbage-to-energy plant that RUNS on trash. I walk almost every day and the fact is, we don't have that much litter, at least not enough to suddenly force private businesses to start collecting used beverage containers. I walked three miles the other day and saw only one plastic bottle. If you want to start putting deposits on things, put them on cigarette packages, Big Gulp cups and Christmas trees. I saw several of those.

I suspect that if you did all the math with the proposed bottle bill, like figuring out how much energy will be needed to transport and process beverage containers for recycling vs. the amount of energy used and CREATED at H-Power, the bottle bill is a losing proposition.

This is not criticism of the people who are pushing the bottle bill. Been there, done that, got the death-threat letters. I know their hearts are in the right place. It's just lucky for them their butts aren't in the Ohio Valley.




Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com.



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