Legislature 2002

Legislators delay bottle bill
vote until Tuesday

Emotions run high as those for
and against the bill state their cases

By Diana Leone

With little discussion, a House-Senate conference committee postponed yesterday a vote on the bottle bill until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

House conferees refused a Senate proposal to water down House Bill 1256, Senate Draft 2, so it would increase the current 1.5 cents-per-bottle advance disposal fee on glass bottles to only 2 cents and postpone dealing with aluminum or plastic containers or refunding to consumers until next year.

The bill proposes a 5 cent refundable deposit on most beverage containers, whether glass, plastic or aluminum. It also would impose a 2 cents-per-container fee, which would pay state and contractor costs of collecting the empties and shipping them to recycling concerns in Asia or the mainland.

Deputy Health Director Gary Gill railed yesterday at the beverage industry's opposition to the bottle bill before the Legislature, saying "an organization that claims to be a citizens group is actually a corporate citizens group."

He was echoed in his complaint by statements from the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club and state Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua).

All referred to Hawaii Citizens for Comprehensive Recycling, a coalition of beverage distributor and supermarket interests, which has been doing extensive print and radio advertising in the past several weeks opposing the bill.

Gary Yoshioka, manager of Pepsi for Hawaii and the spokesman for Hawaii Citizens for Comprehensive Recycling, said the group's name is legitimate since "I am a citizen."

Gill spoke about the bottle bill at a press conference he called at the state Health Department. There and in later comments, he said:

>> The bottle bill would bring in $56 million a year and, if 80 percent of the containers are returned for deposits, consumers would get $32 million back in refunds.

>> Six state employees and nine contractors would be needed to administer the program.

>> The annual cost of running the program would be about $19 million, with $13 million going to redemption centers and $6 million to state administration.

>> The state spent $2,000 with Ward Research to ask Hawaii residents in February whether they support a bottle bill. Seventy percent were in favor and 26 percent were opposed. The poll has a 4 percent margin of error. No outside funds of any kind have been used for promotion of the bottle bill.

>> If enacted this session, full implementation of the bottle bill would occur in October 2004.

Speaking later on behalf of the beverage coalition, Yoshioka said:

>> The state's scientific poll was "a long time ago. ... I don't think that poll would be reflective of today's sentiments."

>> The coalition spent $150,000 on a consultant's study, which proposed curbside recycling in urban areas and drop-off recycling in rural areas instead of a bottle bill. A bill promoting that plan died earlier in the session.

>> The coalition will not say how much it has spent on advertising in opposition to the bill, unless the state Health Department will reveal all its sources of income for pro-bottle-bill advertising.

>> Managers and corporate officials of Foodland, Safeway, Star Markets, Tamura's Wahiawa and Times Super Markets signed a statement that called the bottle bill "a misguided solution."

"It would impose unreasonably high costs on consumers while having limited impact on recycling and litter," they said.

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