The Hawaii Legislature passed a bottle bill April 30, the first time a state has adopted a container-deposit law in the United States since 1986.
The deposit law, which passed both chambers by wide margins, caps more than a year of legislative battling. But the deposits won't take effect until 2005, which could give industry officials time to mount a repeal. A soft drink industry lobbyist said they have not decided if they will do that.
Bottle-bill supporters, who were jubilant at having the first new container law pass in 16 years, said it is an important step in fighting litter and boosting recycling from Hawaii's current 20 percent rate to the 80 percent typical of bottle bills.
A year ago Hawaii legislators passed a resolution telling the industry to come up with a plan to boost container recycling dramatically or they would pass a deposit law. Bottle-bill supporters in the Legislature said the industry failed.
``We were seeking solutions to Hawaii's solid waste and litter problems, and the beverage industry's 30-year-old `recycled' arguments against the bottle bill were just not credible,'' said Rep. Hermina Morita, one of the sponsors of the legislation, in a statement released by the Container Recycling Institute.
A beverage industry lobbyist said the state's plan is unworkable, and criticized the Legislature for rejecting the industry's plan - that the state adopt curbside recycling.
Judith Thorman, vice president of state and local affairs with the National Soft Drink Association in Washington, said the redemption centers created by the law would not be economical. The law does not require small retailers or those in rural areas to take back containers, substantially cutting back redemption opportunities, she said.
``Essentially the state is counting on the program not working,'' she said. ``The state benefits from the lack of success of the program because the state keeps the unredeemed nickels.''
Here are the particulars: The law puts a 5 cent deposit on containers up to 64 ounces. It covers all containers but dairy, wine and spirits. The state runs the program, not the beverage industry, and to reduce operating costs, containers will not be sorted by brand.
The law also puts a tax on containers to help cover the cost of recycling: one-half cent per container in October, rising to 1 cent in 2004. If the container recycling rate rises above 70 percent, that tax rises to 1.5 cents because the state said revenues from unredeemed deposits would fall.
Hawaii officials said the container tax is needed to help develop the system and provide starting money for redemption centers. The state needs to write administrative rules for the system.
In another recycling development, PepsiCo Inc. shareholders voted down a shareholder resolution May 1 urging the company to support an 80 percent container recycling rate and to use 25 percent recycled content in its beverage containers.
About 5 percent of shareholders voted for the resolution, less than last year's 8.2 percent. Ken Scott, portfolio manager for Walden Asset Management in Boston, one of the shareholder groups pressuring the company, said shareholders recognize that Pepsi took a step this year when it said it would have 10 percent recycled PET in its bottles by 2005.
Scott said many institutional investors he spoke with are sympathetic to having Pepsi commit to a recycling-rate goal but they think it should be set by the company.