Official criticizes
bottle bill

A state official details consumer
complaints about redemption

After just a month with Hawaii's new bottle bill, a top state official told lawmakers yesterday that it's not working.

"We appear before you to describe the state's experience with the beverage container law so far, and to repeat that there are better ways to deal with recycling and litter," Deputy Health Director Larry Lau testified at an informational briefing for the House and Senate Energy and Environment committees.

Lau's written testimony blamed the law for not providing a long enough transition time for labeling containers with the 5-cent deposit.

"While implementation could have been better and will improve, the law as written, although well-intentioned, presented many difficulties," Lau testified. Among them are consumer complaints that beverage containers can't be redeemed at retail stores, that there aren't enough redemption centers, that containers cannot be crushed before redemption, and that payment by weight is disliked by some.

About 8.3 million beverage containers were recycled by 33 of the 51 sites that reported to the state by Thursday, Lau said. According to the state's incomplete first-month report: Aluminum cans were the most-recycled item, with 2.4 million redeemable cans and 4.5 million unlabeled cans turned in. For plastic containers, 413,291 redeemable bottles and 45,858 unlabeled ones were recycled. And 852,869 redeemable glass bottles, plus 42,102 unlabeled ones were counted.

The state projects that it will take in $48 million a year in 5-cent deposits and 1-cent nonrefundable container fees on 800 million beverage containers used annually in Hawaii. Of that, about $30.7 million is projected to be refunded to consumers, $13 million paid to certified redemption centers and $4.3 million to pay for government administrative costs. State Sierra Club Director Jeff Mikulina, who attended the hearing, said his organization, which has been a bottle bill supporter, "shares some of the frustrations" Lau expressed.

But Mikulina said, "As soon as there are reverse vending machines in front of every store, there will not be an issue."

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