Your recent editorial comment in support of PET bottle-deposit bills, with particular reference to Hawaii, is misinformed, to say the least ("Packaging not culprit for landfill problems," March 5, Page 10). I suggest that you examine your cookie-cutter approach to the application of your strong views on bottle deposits.
Honolulu currently uses trash to generate electricity. The H-Power facility in Campbell Industrial Park has generated power for Oahu for over 10 years using trash as the fuel. Recently it was announced that the state Legislature will allocate $25 million for work on the island of Hawaii to turn waste into electricity. The island of Kauai is also considering garbage-to-energy as an effective way to beneficially dispose of combustible waste.
The plastic bottle-deposit bill under consideration by our Legislature proposes to charge bottle buyers a 7 cent deposit on bottles 20 ounces and under and 15 cents on bottles over 20 ounces in size. Plastic bottles have a conservative heat value of 17,800 Btu per pound. Thus, 16 20-ounce bottles (1 pound) would generate 1.27 kilowatts of electricity with a retail value of about 14 cents in Hawaii. The proposed legislation would collect a $1.12 deposit, return up to 80 cents only if the bottle is brought to a redemption center and keep 32 cents ($640/ton) to subsidize the program designed to remove 1 pound of plastic bottle waste from the current Oahu H-Power fuel supply.
Please note: This is the cost just to provide the "incentive" to get it removed — the plastic still must be densified, processed or shipped to a recycling facility.
For an island economy that generates most of its electricity with oil, it makes economic sense to use what we have locally (including trash) to offset the import of oil. Why else would we as a state support solar hot-water heaters and sugar-cane waste burning to generate electricity at the sugar plants? If the bottle- deposit legislation goes into effect, the taxpayer and consumer will be paying at least twice for this program:
A minimum of 32 cents (and as high as $1.12) to eliminate 1 pound of energy-generating, small-plastic-bottle waste from the material used to create electricity at H-Power on Oahu and
The loss of the 14 cents the County of Honolulu could have earned by producing electricity with that waste.
Maybe that type of voodoo economics works well on the mainland, where population size and plastic mass is different. However, you're advocating bottle-deposit laws everywhere you find plastic needs to be re-examined.
Because it makes you feel good, would you advocate government policy to seek solutions that cost more than the problem they are designed to address? As a taxpayer, a business person and a heavy consumer of electricity, it seems clear to me that our investment in H-Power for the disposal of trash in these islands makes economic sense, while the proposed bottle-deposit legislation (at least on these islands) adds up to higher costs and lower efficiencies.
Paul E. Smith
Pacific Allied Products Ltd.