Retailers the missing piece of the puzzle
The first year of Hawaii's beverage container redemption program captured 61 percent of the amount sold.
HAWAII consumers have made good progress in recycling drink containers
despite initial confusion and problems with redemption centers.
In the year since the program began, the consumers have shown remarkable willingness to do their part in reducing waste. Now it's time for retailers to lend a hand and lawmakers and the Lingle administration should come through with a plan that does not unduly burden grocers and supermarkets. If the businesses that sell beverages don't sign on to the program, further increasing recycling rates will be difficult.
In the last half of 2005, consumers returned more than 70 percent of beer, juice, soda and water bottles and cans to reclaim the 5-cent deposit they paid on each container, compared to the 20 percent rate when the program started in January 2005. July saw a high of 81 percent redeemed, but for the whole year, that figure dropped to 61 percent.
The recycling meant that through the year, at least half of the containers sold were removed from waste streams that are choking landfills across the state, particularly on Oahu and the Big Island where stashing garbage has become increasingly troublesome.
For the program to work better, however, the missing piece must be plugged in, and that is participation by retailers.
When the so-called "bottle bill" was first proposed, it included retailers as redemption centers, but stores and supermarkets objected and that provision was removed. Instead, separate centers have developed, with 74 operating profitably, creating about 150 jobs.
Retailers have cited space shortages and possible sanitation problems as concerns, but these hurdles aren't insurmountable. In addition, customers who get back their deposits from a store are likely to spend the change and more at the same outlet.
The Lingle administration, which at first opposed the program, has come around and now supports having large retailers participate. Legislators need to fashion measures to bring retailers into the recycling fold.
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