At the Reynolds Recycling Center in Halawa Valley yesterday, staffer Frank Alicea loaded bottles into a shipping box on the first full day of container redemptions under Hawaii's new bottle law.

Recycling gets off
to brisk start

Consumers endure inconvenience
to redeem drink-container deposits

Consumers toting garbage bags full of empty cans and bottles streamed into redemption centers yesterday, some waiting patiently to get their cash deposits back, others grumbling about the inconvenience.

"It's very disheartening to be forced to go to a redemption center," said Todd Peterson, an actor who lives in Waikiki and was in line yesterday at the Reynolds Recycling site in Moiliili. "The stores who sell these should be forced to take them back. I believe in recycling but it needs to be organized."

Yesterday was the first regular working day for the new beverage deposit law. With just 43 redemption centers operating statewide, many residents had to travel far from their neighborhoods to turn in their empties and collect their 5-cent deposits.

So far, supermarkets and other retailers have declined to become redemption centers. Starting July 1, in urban areas where there is no redemption site within a 2-mile radius, the law allows the state to step in and designate a retailer as a collection center.

Jenise Cocson showed the $8.26 she pocketed. The Reynolds Recycling Center in Halawa Valley was a busy place yesterday, the first full day for redeeming beverage containers under Hawaii's new bottle law.

Ed Thompson, government affairs director for the Hawaii Food Industry Association, said retailers are still reviewing their options.

"I am sure that some retailer will see the advantage of having a redemption center at their stores," he said. "At this time they're still taking a wait-and-see attitude to study the situation because we still have time to do that. Our biggest concern would be the amount of space that we would lose, as well as the sanitation issues and the additional cost of doing a redemption site."

Most sites managed to handle the flow of customers yesterday, but the Moiliili center ran out of space and money shortly after 2 p.m. It is the only redemption center in the central town area, and had a stream of customers a dozen deep, from as far as Kahala.

Makiki residents Nancy Moe and her sons Matthew and Mason had successfully recycled their bottles there in the morning, and returned with two large boxes full of cans in the afternoon -- too late to be accommodated. They decided just to leave the empties rather than come back a third time.

Rome Acopan, above, offloaded bottles for redemption from the back of his pickup truck.

"We usually do this for the schools," Moe said. "It's a good cause. There's so much litter in the area."

Laura Lott, state Department of Health spokeswoman, said things went relatively smoothly yesterday at redemption sites, except for Moiliili. A dozen more redemption sites statewide are under review, she said.

"The redemption centers were busy, but people were pretty good about waiting when they needed to," she said. "There are some bumps. We just hope that people will stay patient and stay with us. The program will get better as it grows and matures."

Reynolds Recycling Inc. operates most of the redemption centers, including 19 on Oahu from Hawaii Kai to Haleiwa. Rolloffs Hawaii has centers in Kapolei, Sand Island and Campbell Industrial Park.

A Rolloff mobile truck with reverse vending machines that set up shop on Sunday in Kaneohe was so busy that it stayed open five hours past its planned quitting time, said Linda Henriques, a Rolloffs owner. The truck was headed today to public housing projects including Mayor Wright and Kamehameha IV.

Calvin Akamu fed his cans into recycling vending machines yesterday at the recycling center.

The bottle bill, which took effect Saturday, requires consumers to pay a 5-cent refundable deposit and a 1-cent handling fee on beverage containers with 64 ounces or less of water, beer, soda and juice. Milk, hard liquor and wine are exempt. Containers should be returned clean and not crushed.

Suzanne Jones, recycling coordinator for the city of Honolulu, said she expects the new economic incentive to help spread recycling to condos, schools and nonprofit groups.

"The schools and not-for-profit groups are seeing this as an extraordinary fund-raising opportunity," she said. "We want to help facilitate that for them."

For information, including redemption center locations and hours, visit www.hi5deposit.com and www.opala.org.

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