Sponsors of a new bottle bill in the Hawaii Legislature hope they have found the key to approval in this session after years of seeing such legislation fail to get enough support to become law.
"We're really hopeful this time around, and I've seen bottle bills proposed and killed in every session of the Legislature for as long as I can remember," said Suzanne Jones, recycling coordinator for the city and county of Honolulu.
The difference this year is that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Hermina Morita, was crafted by a broad coalition of backers from government, recycling and environmental interests, Jones said.
"In the past, we've taken a bill from another state and tried to make it fit here. But that's never worked, so this time we started from scratch and came up with a bill tailor-made for Hawaii's needs," Jones said. "It's been 16 years since a bottle bill was passed in any state, and a lot of new technology and philosophy has been introduced since then, so we think we have something our Legislature hasn't seen before."
The new bill calls for a 5 cent deposit on containers of 24 ounces or less and a 15 cent deposit on larger containers. Stores would be required to redeem the deposits if there is not a redemption center within a mile, but the containers would go right into the recycling stream without involving bottlers, wholesalers or distributors. Those groups would, however, pay a 2 cent fee on each container manufactured or imported into the state.
Soft drinks, beer, wine, liquor, fruit juices, sports drinks, coffees, teas and bottled water are included. Containers for dairy products are excluded.
Hawaii is not facing a particular solid waste crisis, Jones said, but landfill capacity is at a premium on the outer islands, and the entire state is working hard at avoiding solid waste problems.
"This is just the next step, and it's the logical one," Jones said. "We have really broad support, but we're still expecting opposition from the food and beverage industries. They've always been the traditional opponents of this. Actually, we've been bracing for a battle with the bottlers."
The bottle bill is opposed by bottlers and the food industry, said Richard Botti, president of the Hawaii Food Industry Association.
"It's too expensive and it's not needed," Botti said. "Just that 2 cent assessment is a $25 million tax. It's a $50 million to $100 million piece of legislation to create recycling jobs. But it won't do a thing for the environment. We already have laws and recycling programs."
Luke Schmidt, president of the National Association for PET Container Resources in Charlotte, N.C., said he has not seen the Hawaii bill, but the association's position on deposit laws is that voluntary curbside programs make more sense. Curbside programs allow communities to collect much more volume and a greater variety of materials, Schmidt said.