Up to 200 recyclables will be counted
I took about 1,000 cans and bottles to recycle. The recycling center said they wouldn't honor my count so they weighed it and I came out with $36. That wasn't even close to what I was due. I think, little by little, they are ripping off everybody by having containers weighed. Can't something be done?
I usually put my empty cans in an empty 30-can beer box. When I have two full boxes, I put the cans in a plastic bag. I took 10 bags -- 600 cans -- to recycle. The worker insisted he had to weigh the cans, coming up with 18.5 pounds. He said they calculate 30 cans per pound, so 18.5 x 30 = 555 cans. I lost 45 cans or $2.25. Can someone conduct a test to actually see how many cans equal one pound? How often do they calibrate the scales?
At this point, the state Department of Health, which oversees the recycling redemption program, says the weighing method is here to stay, even though it acknowledges the method is "less accurate."
However, in response to complaints, it plans to change its administrative rules to require redemption centers to do a count for up to 200 containers, if requested.
The rules now require counts only if a customer has fewer than 50 containers and asks for a count.
The department also is undertaking a study to see if the conversion rates need to be updated, spokeswoman Janice Okubo said.
Current rates were based on a March 2005 statistical study of actual redemption loads.
"It is possible that the mix of container types and even weight of containers for some brands have changed since the first study," Okubo said.
However, she pointed out that even if the new study leads to a revision, the rates still will reflect an average, and therefore will not always yield the same results as a hand count.
Okubo also said that "the conversion rate is an average of the number of containers per pound by material type (aluminum, plastic, glass, bi-metal)," so you may receive more or less of a refund than expected, depending on the size of the containers.
Asked how consumers can feel confident they are not being "ripped off," another Health Department official said redemption centers and scales are inspected randomly "on a regular basis," as well as in response to complaints.
"To date, scales at certified redemption centers have tested accurate," he said.
(The state Department of Agriculture certifies weight scales; health inspectors check for accuracy on an "at-the-moment" basis by placing a weight on scales.)
Basically, consumers have to decide whether they want to forego the convenience of weighing -- i.e. less time waiting -- for a more accurate refund that comes with counting.
The bottom line: If you want to make sure you get the money's worth, you should redeem -- for now -- fewer than 50 containers at a time, or use a reverse vending machine.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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