State of Hawaii

Bottle bill may
be killed before it
goes into effect

Lingle says the law is a feel-good
program that will cost
more than it is worth

Lingle turns campaign promises into bills
Aiona working on new prison plans

By Diana Leone

Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday she will seek repeal of the state's bottle bill and instead address the state's litter problem by allotting $300,000 to help nonprofits organize community cleanup days and $2 million to the counties to take care of garbage.

But county recycling officials were not happy with Lingle's comments, and an environmental group criticized the governor, saying the beverage container deposit law is needed to keep cans and other containers from spoiling the environment.

"Last year, the Legislature passed a law known as the bottle bill. It is supposed to address two serious problems facing the state: excessive litter and reducing the need for additional landfill space," Lingle said at a news conference to highlight her administration's environment- and health-related legislation.

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"If allowed to stand, this law will drastically increase government bureaucracy and drive up the cost of living without a corresponding decrease in litter or the need for landfill space," Lingle said.

"The millions of dollars that will be spent on this increased bureaucracy will only address about 2 percent of the materials going into our landfills," Lingle said, calling it a "feel-good program."

Jan Dapitan, executive director of the nonprofit Community Workday Program, expressed thanks that Lingle plans to restore state assistance that was cut in 1995, but noted the volunteers also would be "delighted if the bottle bill reduced the amount of litter on the highways and in public parks."

Sierra Club Director Jeff Mikulina said he believes the governor "is being misguided here."

"Clearly, it's like the Bush approach to environmental policy: Let the industry dictate the policy, and keep things voluntary. We supported the bottle bill and continue to think it's the single most effective solution for reducing litter and reducing pressure on our landfill."

Mikulina said the volume of beverage containers in a landfill is much more than its estimated 2 percent proportion by weight and that "the bottom line is, every bit matters."

Oregon found up to an 80 percent reduction in beverage container litter as a result of its bottle bill, Mikulina said.

Gary Yoshioka, who was the spokesman last year for the beverage industry lobbying group Hawaii Citizens for Comprehensive Recycling, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He has said in the past that a more comprehensive recycling program run by the counties would be a better alternative.

Hawaii's bottle bill is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2005. It will charge consumers a 5-cent-per-container refundable deposit and finance processing of the bottles and the refunds with a 1.5-cent-per-container nonrefundable fee.

The statewide program is designed to be self-supporting, and if 70 percent of containers are returned for refunds, it is expected to take in $48 million in 2005, of which $11 million would be used to pay recyclers, $3.4 million to fund a state recycling administration and $33.6 million to be returned to customers who return bottles, said state recycling coordinator Gretchen Ammerman.

Beverage retailers began making half-cent-per-container payments to the state in October to build up a fund from which to give customers their refunds, she said.

Suzanne Jones, Honolulu recycling coordinator, said all four counties supported the bottle bill last year.

"I don't think that the support from the counties for a beverage container deposit system has changed," she said yesterday. "We feel it's just as smart as it was last session."

Barbara Bell, director of environmental management for Hawaii County, said she was disappointed with Lingle's plan to repeal the bottle bill, but "jumping for joy" if her county gets new state money to help finance solid-waste studies.

"We have two landfills on this island, and one is very close to filling up," she said.

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