Hi 5 Recycling Program – Environmental Protection Or Money Grab?

In 2005, the Deposit Beverage Container Law (Act 176), also known as the Hi-5 program, went into effect. It was a way to “encourage” people to start recycling more. And while the initial response was very positive there has been some drop off in interest over recent years.

In layman’s terms, the law basically says that the State is going to charge you an extra 5¢ (+1.5¢ for operational costs) for every bottled beverage you buy that’s under 64 ounces. You get the $.05 back when you take the empty bottle to a certified recycling center.

Now, 6.5¢ may not seem like much until you consider that your $5 case of water is really $6.56. How many bottles of water do you consume in a week? A month? A year? Those nickels and pennies add up but where does it go?

In 2017, approximately 60% of the bottles purchased under the program were redeemed by Hawaii residents. The other 40%? Property of the State of Hawaii; used for program administration. Huh? Seriously? Isn’t that why they collect the extra 1.5¢?

So, what this is telling me is that the extra money doesn’t go to a program for our kupuna or to help with the homeless situation or any kind of good Samaritan effort like that. It goes to administration fees. And what does administration fees mean? Who knows?! Your guess is as good as mine.

It seems the State of Hawaii has found another way to nickel and dime us into a financial struggle. Add those nickels and pennies of the bottle law to the money they take for GE Taxes, rail taxes and increased property taxes and you get a whole bunch of money grabbing by the State that we have very little control over.

Having said all of that, hitting people in the pocketbook may seem like it’s worked. Before the law was enacted in 2005, the redemption rate was only 20.2%. A year later the rate increased over 40%. While proponents are convinced that the new law worked like magic, opponents say that much of the success of the program was the marketing strategy of the Hi 5 “brand.”

What are your thoughts about the state’s Hi 5 program? What was the real motivation for creating this law? Was it really about increasing the recycling effort or was it another way state money grab?


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