Retailers should do their part in recycling
An amendment to the bottle law would require grocery stores to redeem containers.
HAWAII consumers deserve one big shaka for doing their part in making the beverage container law as successful as it is today. Despite the hassles of finding a redemption center and waiting in lines to get back deposits, 85 percent of containers were returned in September, the highest monthly recycling rate since the program began in January.
Now it's time for retailers to pick up the slack.
If they do not, the state Legislature should amend the law, as proposed by Rep. Brian Schatz and the Sierra Club, to require larger retailers to take back the containers and make it easier for their customers -- those who buy the drinks in their stores -- to redeem deposits.
The state Health Department reported last week that about 50 million bottles and cans were recycled during September. However, even though more than 390 million containers have been cut from the waste stream since redemption centers opened, that's still only half of the number sold, and while the recycling rate has steadily increased, it could get better if retailers pitch in.
Why grocery businesses have so stubbornly resisted doing the right thing is puzzling.
None have taken advantage of state-funded rebates of between $30,000 and $90,000 to help pay for reverse vending machines that do much of the work.
Industry representatives say they don't have the space for such machines, but they should consider that trading off a couple of parking slots might be well worth the convenience and good will for appreciative customers.
Providing redemption centers or machines isn't rocket science, and the practice isn't uncommon. Supermarket chains that operate in Hawaii take back containers at mainland stores. In a highly competitive market, it is curious that stores don't jump at the chance to gain an edge over one another.
Hawaii is the only state with a bottle law that doesn't require retailers to collect containers. That should end.
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