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O'ahu should start a recycling program now!

by Rose McKenney, editor

Hawai‘i’s cans and bottles, plastic and glass, in thousands, are thrown away every day, instead of being recycled and reused. Since HPU, as well as most businesses, already recycle white paper, recycling beverage containers is an easy next step.


Nationwide, in the 1990s, 40 to 60 percent of litter came from bottles and cans, as estimated by the U.S. Government Accounting Office, according to the ("Opala" is the Hawaiian word for “garbage”), the Honolulu C&C recycling program Web site.

According to the Hawai‘i State Department of Business, Economic, Development, & Tourism, as cited on Opala, in September, in four hours, 20,000 beverage containers were picked up, on O‘ahu, during the annual “Get the Drift and Bag it” clean-up campaign. The campaign went from dusk to dawn for two days on the four major islands.

You can check our math: 20,000 in four hours is 5,000 per hour times 10 hours times two days equals 100,000 beverage containers on O‘ahu alone. And while the clean up is an annual event, it’s not the only clean up. We are drowning in our own garbage.

In other states, container deposits have helped reduced the litter of beverage containers. Hawai’i’s recently passed deposit law may benefit all of us, including the visitor industry, because it would improve Hawai‘i’s image as a paradise, and because it will be the local people who manage to make a little money helping to keep Hawai‘i beautiful.

The legislature passed the Beverage Container Deposit Law (House Bill 1256) on May 1, 2002 and former Governor Ben J. Cayetano signed it into law on June 26, 2002. It was the nation's 11th bottle bill to become law, making Hawai‘i the “first state to adopt a new beverage deposit law in 16 years,” according to the Web site.

Neither Governor Linda Lingle, nor her administration, has supported the bill; however, in a recent Honolulu Advertiser article, Lingle has said she will not try to repeal it during the 2004 legislature.
Once the bill takes effect in January 2005, consumers can recycle cans, plastic bottles, or glass and receive five cents back as an incentive for returning the containers.

Where does the nickel come from? According to Suzanne Jones, recycling coordinator for the City and County of Honolulu, consumers will pay a five-cent deposit fee plus a one-and-a-half-cent container fee at the time of purchase. The container fee, which will be used to pay for the redemption center operations, will be added to the price of the beverage. The five cents deposit will show up on a separate line on the receipt, and when the empty container is returned, the person who returns it—consumer or someone else—will get the nickel back.

In 2005, then, people can make some extra cash by getting involved in recycling. Bottle deposits could be an incentive for students, as individuals or as clubs, to start recycling beverage containers and get their nickels back. It is sad that we will have to wait so long, but it could also be a stimulus for us to begin a beverage container-recycling program.

The Opala Web site offers advice on how to do this:

The first step is to gather a group of friends who are also interested, and decide who is to do what. Don’t attempt to do this project alone; it’s a lot of work for one person. If necessary, organize as a club and find a faculty member to be an advisor and to help supervise the project.

Next, decide what types of containers are needed for each recyclable item. The city might be able to provide the containers. Call the refuse division at 692-5358 or the recycling office at 692-5410 or e-mail at to receive more information on how to get them.

Next, figure out accessible locations where students would use these containers. If no one uses them, your program fails before it starts.

Next, determine where to take the recycled beverage containers. If you don’t want to do it yourself, negotiate with a pickup service to have the cost of pickup covered by the income from the recycled containers. Try to find someone uncomplicated, reliable, affordable, and convenient. You won’t make any money for yourself or your club, but you’ll get the recycling job done without a lot of effort.

Finally, encourage friends and fellow students to recycle. The program won’t last unless everyone does his or her part.

For more information visit


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