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Cost of Groceries Going Up If Bottle Bill Is Approved

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

One of the measures that was stalled last year because the beverage industry wanted time to come up with an alternative is a proposal that would impose a deposit on all beverage containers.
The proposal would slap a 2 cent per container fee on all beverage containers and then depending on the volume, an additional refundable deposit of either 5 cents if the container holds less than 24 ounces or 15 cents if the container holds more than 24 ounces. The whole intent of this measure is to clean up litter on the side of the roads and reduce the amount of waste that is being deposited in the state’s landfills.
A noble intent at that! How can one argue against cleaning up the environment by reducing the amount of trash along the roadside? Well, upon closer examination, beverage containers account for no more than 10% of the waste stream in any one state and the estimates for Hawaii place beverage containers accounting for anywhere between 5% and 8% of the waste stream. But proponents argue that is not the point, that while true based on tonnage perhaps beverage containers account for less than 10% of the waste stream, it is the volume being big, fat liter bottles of soft drinks take up space in the landfill because they are difficult to crush into flat pancakes. And as proponents argue what is 5 cents or 15 cents? You are going to get it back anyway when you return the container.
Another lawmaker blithely cast aside the notion that the bottle deposit program was going to cost $20 million. As this one lawmaker said, “It’s only $20 million, a small price to pay to clean up the roadsides.” Wait a minute, if this lawmaker thinks that $20 million is a paltry sum, I can give her my checking account number and she can deposit that “little sum” to my credit. That’s what happens when elected officials don’t care that it is taxpayer money they are throwing away.
In fact, that estimate of the cost of the bottle deposit program is more than likely severely underestimated. It appears that the estimate takes into account only the beverage container fee, some of the deposit which is never refunded, and the cost of administering the program. It appears that lawmakers have taken a very one-dimensional view of this issue as it appears that no one has taken into consideration the attendant costs.
“Attendant costs – wat dat?” Under the bill, if the retailer’s store has more than 5,000 square feet of space and is more than a mile from a certified redemption center, the retailer must take back the beverage containers and return the deposit. Since the retailer has been charged for the deposit amount by the distributor of the product, the retailer has to separate the containers by brand as the retailer will be asking the distributor for the refund of the deposit paid out to the consumer. Thus the retailer will have to maintain an inventory of the empty containers.
However, in the meantime, the retailer has to store the empty containers and provide security as those empty containers are now worth money and if the retailer doesn’t want a sanitation problem that will attract rats and roaches, the containers will have to be cleaned. All of this will mean that the retailer will now have to secure warehouse space for the empty beverage containers in addition to the regular stock of goods for sale in the retailer’s store.
Let’s see now, that is extra rent for the added storage space, security for the containers, someone to wash out the containers, separate and count them, and finally someone has to pay to transport them back to the distributor. Unlike what another legislator said, “It’s only the cost of the deposit and the customer will get that back, besides those who consume should pay to make sure those containers don’t litter the highway.”
Wrong, it is not only those people who consume the beverages who will pay. Even if you don’t drink canned or bottled beverages, the retailer will have to recover these “attendant costs” and it will not only be passed on to the beverage consumers. The cost of the additional rent and labor will be buried in every single product in that store from the bag of rice to the can of beans to the pound of ground beef.
While we all want a cleaner environment, this is not a comprehensive and well-thought out approach. If it is so effective, why is it that there are only nine other states which have a bottle bill with the last one being adopted in 1982? Is there something that we should know about why other states have not adopted such an approach?
One county recycling official claimed that they inquired with all the county employees about the bottle bill and got no objections. But then again, the county official only told one side of the story. Of course, all the public bureaucrats want this bill because they get all the money that is never reclaimed as deposits. This will literally be a cash cow that will allow them to build an even bigger bureaucracy. A bureaucracy that will come at expense of your grocery bill.

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