Kokua Line

June Watanabe

‘Bottle law’ transition
creates confusion
on unlabeled products

Question: Recently, I bought a case of cola at Foodland in Pearl City and was charged the $0.01 handling fee and the $0.05 deposit fee. When I got home, I examined the cans, and there was no "Hi 5c" indication. I went back to the store, but instead of a refund, which I expected, they gave me stickers imprinted "Hi 5c" to put on the cans, indicating that the fee had been paid. Is this acceptable? The cans are supposed to be "clean" when they are returned for the refund.

Answer: Yes, it is acceptable for merchants to use the stickers -- at least for now.

In fact, you can't redeem any container subject to the recently imposed 5-cent refundable deposit, aimed at encouraging recycling, unless it is marked in some way to indicate the charge.

Implementation of Hawaii's new "bottle law" is still in the throes of a transition period, complicated by the fact that although people are being charged the deposit fee, they can't get refunds until Jan. 1.

Although merchants could begin assessing the 5-cent deposit as of Nov. 1, apparently not all the containers subject to the deposit have been "labeled." (The bottles or cans affected contain soft drinks, beer, juices, water, teas and sports drinks, although not all sizes. Not affected are those that contain wine, milk or hard liquor.)

The state Department of Health, which is overseeing implementation of the bottle law, is allowing use of "stickers" denoting "Hi 5c" because some containers haven't been marked during this transition period, said spokeswoman Janice Okubo.

"Retailers are required to pay the state the 5-cent deposit fee for those stick-on labels," Okubo said, just as they are paying the 5-cent deposit for marked containers.

They get their money back by charging consumers. Consumers will be able to get their deposit fees back once the state sets up redemption centers in January.

At Foodland, the checkout system currently is not able to determine whether a product is labeled or unlabeled, said spokeswoman Sheryl Toda.

Foodland's policy was to charge a nickel per container as soon as distributors started delivering "labeled" products, she said. However, mixed in with the marked containers were some unlabeled ones.

"So we have asked our vendors to 'sticker' all of the unlabeled products for us," Toda said.

However, not all vendors did that, Toda said, requiring Foodland employees to do some sticker labeling.

The problem is that containers in "multipacks" are closed and the individual containers cannot be labeled by Foodland, she said.

"Our solution is to ask customers to label these for us," she said.

If you were charged a deposit fee on applicable unmarked containers, Toda said to contact the store to receive a sticker so that you eventually will be able to get a refund.

Meanwhile, it's not just consumers, but merchants as well who are going through this confusing period of transition because of "a combination of labeled and unlabeled products (still) on the shelf," said Ed Thompson, executive director of the Hawaii Food Industry Association.

One of the problems merchants are having is that regardless of whether containers are labeled, the same scanner number is used, he said.

"When a product is scanned, the machine cannot determine whether it's a labeled or unlabeled product," he explained. It can only note that it is subject to the recycling fees.

Merchants have tried to move out most of their unlabeled products and, in most cases, most stores now are receiving only labeled products, he said.

But because some items move faster than others, or a product may have been stacked in the back and hadn't been rotated out to the front, some containers are not marked.

"So, customers are going to have to anticipate a combination of labeled and unlabeled products at this time," Thompson said.

He also noted that there currently is no one place where the "Hi 5c" mark is being placed.

The standard location for the markings is on the side or top of containers, as is done in the other states that have bottle laws, Thompson said. But because Hawaii is in its transition period, the state is allowing some companies to "inkjet" the marking on the bottom of containers in some instances, he said.

But everything should be standardized by Jan. 1, Thompson said.

Okubo emphasized that if consumers purchase products marked with stickers, they should not remove them. They need to be attached to the containers to be redeemed. The containers don't need to be "clean," but they need to be empty and uncrushed, Okubo said.

Rinsing is recommended for sanitary reasons during storage, but it's not a requirement.

Thompson asked the public's understanding and patience, "and let the system work its way through" during the transition period.


To whoever broke into my house on Tuesday, Nov. 23, and stole my laptop, which contained my Ph.D. research on Hawaiian fisheries, mainly tuna fisheries, from the past three years. Everything from the raw data to my detailed thoughts are contained in that machine. This research extends throughout the tropical Pacific with the help of a group of great scientists, both here at the University of Hawaii, and from throughout the Pacific, including Mexico, California, and New Caledonia. We're trying to unravel the complexities of tuna migration in the tropical Pacific Ocean. In doing so, we've discovered interesting information about tuna and other predators of the open ocean. Whoever might have the laptop, I ask you to please return it, no questions asked. I'd like to try to recover the data from the hard drive. It's a Dell Inspiron 4150, with a number of scrapes on the right side. I'd be happy to pay a reward. It's not about the laptop, but the ideas contained in the machine.

-- Brittany Graham
UH Department of Oceanography
(Graham can be reached via e-mail at grahamb@hawaii.edu.)


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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 kokualine@starbulletin.com



E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com