WASHINGTON — A Hawaiian proposal for an advance disposal fee for plastic drink containers appears dead for now, after the American Plastics Council said it will fund an economic study of recycling's potential in Hawaii.
The state government and Legislature had been weighing several proposals for an ADF of 0.25-1.5 cents per container, but the plans have been shelved pending the APC study, said John Harder, solid waste coordinator in the state Department of Health's Office of Solid Waste Management.
APC plans to hire Cascadia Consulting Inc. in Seattle to conduct the three-month study for an undisclosed sum, said Roger Bernstein, senior director of government affairs and regional operations for APC and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
Bernstein said Washington, D.C.-based APC and SPI are opposed to the fees, levied on bottle manufacturers and distributors, because they are a hidden tax and the money raised can be caught in bureaucracy. However, the study will focus on the broad recycling market rather than the ADF. Hawaii may not have the dense population needed to support using recycled materials locally, but may be able to export it, he said.
Hawaii has little recycling infrastructure, but would use the money raised by an ADF to help businesses develop ways to use recycled materials, he said. The state probably recycles less than 2 percent of its plastics, Harder said.
A 0.25 cent fee per container pushed by Harder would generate about $300,000 a year. Legislators have called for 1.5 cents per container, but Harder prefers the smaller fee until a recycling infrastructure is built and a market is established. Harder said if the study indicates there is a market, a recycler may be able to use that to get a loan and the state may not need to establish an ADF.
``I didn't want to go through the bureaucracy of an ADF,'' he said. But he added that ``I'm committed to the idea if that's what it takes.''
Hawaii already has a 1.5 cent ADF on glass containers, which the state finds easy to manage because most goods come through one port and five importers pay 90 percent of the fee. Hawaii has two plastic bottle plants, and most imported bottles come through one port. Harder said industry is resistant to any ADF because they fear it could be used later to fund other programs in state government.
Plastic ADFs are not common, with the last one, in Florida, expiring in 1995. But Bernstein said the local and state governments could begin to look more closely at them as more federal responsibilities such as welfare are shifted to states.