Home » What’s News » Weekly Commentary » Jumping to Conclusions Without Facts Can Be Misleading

Jumping to Conclusions Without Facts Can Be Misleading

posted in: Weekly Commentary 0
By Lowell L. Kalapa

There is obviously a very emotional investment in the issues surrounding the soon to be imposed beverage container deposit legislation that will slap a refundable nickel charge on every beverage container. And apparently it was not quite clear what we thought of the bottle bill.
One reader could not understand why this is such bad legislation; he couldn’t see that the penny advance disposal fee as well as the nickel is nothing more than another tax on Hawaii’s people.
Another reader sees the program as a means of avoiding having to build more landfills. That reader might want to review all the testimony submitted on this legislation which notes that beverage containers account for about 7% of the litter (1.8% of solid waste) deposited in Hawaii’s landfills. The real kicker is that more than half of the waste deposited in island landfills is demolition debris. That’s the stuff that is hauled away as buildings are demolished for replacement or renovation.
Advocates agree that the nickel per beverage container deposit fee will generate about $56 million annually and that realistically only about $34 million will be claimed upon return of those beverage containers. In fact, the advocates are banking on the fact that many consumers will not return those containers as they expect to use the unclaimed $22 million or so to hire more public employees to educate us about recycling our waste. Of course, this does not take into account the $8 million (or $12 million if the fee goes to 1.5 cents) generated from the penny that distributors of beverages have been paying since October of 2002.
Let’s look at what this is costing taxpayers in an attempt to avoid building more landfills for this segment of the islands’ waste stream. At $22 million not refunded to consumers that represents about 40% of the containers on which the nickel is paid that will continue to go into the landfill. Thus, forty percent of the 7% that beverage containers currently represent of the waste put into the landfills will never be returned and will be found by the wayside or end up in the landfill.
Conversely, 60% of the 7%, or 4.2% of all the litter that goes into our landfills will be returned for the nickel deposit. This will cost consumers and taxpayers more than $64 million annually between the estimated $56 million to be collected from the nickel refundable deposit and $8 million in the nonrefundable penny per container advance disposal fee. And that doesn’t even take into account the costs incurred by retailers to accommodate the return of the empties.
Think about it, $64 million annually to reduce the litter going into the landfill by less than 5% or less than 1% of all solid waste. Would taxpayers want to spend twenty times that amount or $1.3 billion annually to eliminate all of the litter going into landfill? Just think how many other ways that $64 million could be spent to improve our schools, provide assistance to the needy, or improve state parks. The projected $1.3 billion – and that is all it is, a projection based on the cost to eliminate beverage containers – would have been almost enough to have built the light rail project for Honolulu back in the early 1990’s.
What is not readily apparent is the “tax” that this legislation imposes on all consumers in the form of hidden costs that will have to be encumbered in order to accommodate the collection of the nickel charge and the subsequent refund and redemption of the empty containers. If redemption centers are not readily available as specified under the law, businesses that sell beverages, with a few exceptions, will have to take back the empty containers and give the consumer back the nickel per container.
Who will pay for the cost of the additional storage space needed for the empty containers, or for that matter the personnel needed to handle the redemption and storage? Certainly the retailers are not going to absorb the costs. It is almost a certainty that the capital and operating costs incurred for the bottle program will be embedded in every single item in the store. So even customers who never buy a beverage in a returnable container will bear the cost of the program. It will be reflected in the bag of rice or the can of tuna.
The bottle bill is truly reflective of the lack of creativity on the part of our lawmakers. Instead of looking at Hawaii as the unique island state that it is, non contiguous to any other part of the country where land prices are atmospheric, these lawmakers took the “easy” way out and took the cookie cutter approach and applied it to Hawaii. As a result, we will all pay a very dear price that is an inefficient use of what limited resources we have.
So is the bottle bill another tax? You bet it is! And one that will add to our already high cost of living.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply