$15M in bottle deposits has gone uncollected
The state has collected nearly $15 million more in deposits on recyclable beverage containers than it has paid out to consumers under the new recycling law.
"We have that (money) primarily because we had fewer redemptions than we budgeted for," Larry Lau, state deputy director for environmental health, said yesterday after releasing the Department of Health's latest redemption and financial figures.
Collection of refundable nickel deposits and 1-cent, nonrefundable handling fees have outpaced payments to consumers and recycling companies so far, Lau said.
Between October 2004 and August, 652,413,317 labeled beverage containers were sold, and 310,773,230 containers were redeemed for recycling. That is an overall return rate of 49 percent.
The program was set up conservatively, to break even at a 70 percent redemption rate, Lau said, and to make sure it did not run out of money to refund to consumers.
Lau said he does not consider the money in the fund to be surplus.
"From out standpoint, whatever we do (with it) will be for deposit beverage container recycling," Lau said. "Our only use for the money is to improve the program."
The program recycled 80 percent of the beverage containers sold in July and 67 percent of those sold in August, Health Department figures show. The redemption rate has risen steadily from about 25 percent in January, the first month consumers could get a refund for their empties.
"We are pleased to see an increase in beverage container recycling. While the month-to-month numbers vary and should be treated cautiously, the overall trend is encouraging," Lau said.
A procurement panel is looking at eight proposals for Health Department grants that would help a company or agency cover the startup costs of adding or expanding redemption centers, Lau said.
There were 43 redemption centers statewide in January, when refunds started to be paid to consumers.
Lau said there are now 75 redemption centers: 45 on Oahu (27 stationary and 18 mobile), 13 in Maui County, 11 on the Big Island and six on Kauai.
On Tuesday, Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced that the city would not offer curbside recycling pickup in the near future because legal appeals from unsuccessful bidders for the contract to process the city's recyclables would block the program. Hannemann also said he wanted to work with the state to enhance the effectiveness of the state beverage container law.
Lau said yesterday that it is too early to know exactly how the state and city might cooperate on recycling.
"I'm told (Hannemann) said the city wanted to partner with the state in improving redemption options, particularly in the Honolulu urban core, from Kahala to Pearl City," Lau said. "Certainly we'd be happy to talk with them to see what we can set up."
One-third of payments left over
The state Department of Health reports that from October 2002 to the end of last August, the deposit beverage container special fund collected more than $44 million from the 5-cent deposit and 1-cent handling fee per beverage container. Of that money, the state has:
» Paid out more than $17 million.
» $6 million-plus in encumbrances.
» $6 million in reserve to help qualified applicants establish more redemption centers.
» An available balance of $14.8 million.
Source: State Department of Health