Big Island recycling proceeds trimmed


By NANCY COOK LAUER

Stephens Media Hawaii

Hawaii County residents are paying an extra half-cent fee every time they buy a drink in a HI-5 bottle or can, but the county is seeing less of its money coming back from the state to operate its redemption centers.

The HI-5 fee was raised from 6 cents to 6.5 cents in September, with 5 cents per container returned to whoever redeems the bottle or can at recycling centers. The other 1.5 cents goes to state administrative costs.

Statewide, more than 77 percent of the 900 million HI-5 containers purchased annually get turned back in, saving space in landfills.

While the state promotes recycling, the increased popularity of the program has also raised administrative costs. In 2011, before the increase was implemented, the state took in about $55 million while spending about $59 million.

Despite bringing in an extra $4.5 million annually from the increase, the state Department of Health has cut Hawaii County’s share of the proceeds from $765,000 to $483,933 for the year. The County Council on Wednesday will adjust the county budget to reflect that amount through Bill 95.

“We were disappointed,” Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd said Monday. “The state decided to give us less money and we have to live with that.”

It could have been worse, Leithead Todd said. The state first said there would be no money for the county’s program this year, but then, too late for the county to factor it into the budget, came back with the reduced amount.

Leithead Todd said there is an increase in reporting requirements as well, leading to the county having to increase the paperwork to get the money.

Steven Chang, program manager for the Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch of the Health Department, said the Legislature had taken 5 percent of the proceeds over the past three years and put it into the general fund to help balance the state budget, but this year the department was successful in persuading the Legislature to let the department keep the whole amount.

He said Hawaii County and Kauai County are the only counties that get the HI-5 grant. Kauai County saw its $265,000 reduced to $250,000 he said.

“We had to go in and look at how valuable the services being provided by both counties are,” Chang said, “and whether the areas were already being served by (private sector) redemption centers in close proximity.”

While the county first worried that its two full-time recycling positions would have to be reduced, or that not all of the 10 HI-5 centers would be able to stay open, Leithead Todd said the administration was able to find the funding to keep the employees and keep the centers open, but with some having reduced hours.

The new hours, which went into effect July 15, are:

— Hilo: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

— Waimea: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

— Kealakehe: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

— Keauhou: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Certified redemption center hours at all other recycling and transfer stations remained the same. All certified redemption centers are closed for lunch from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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