State raising beverage container fee - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State raising beverage container fee

KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) - In Kailua, The Hibachi store sells bottled water, soft drinks and other beverages.

"Every day we sell a lot. We have to order cases and cases every week," Shawn Ito said.

The state Department of Health is raising the container fee it charges manufacturers, distributors and beverage importers by a half a cent to keep the fund solvent.

"People will not have to be cutting their pennies in half. It's going to be up to the retailers and the distributors as to how they accommodate within their profit margins this additional half-cent fee," DOH deputy director Gary Gill said.

The executive director of the Hawaii Food Industry Association worries retailers, especially smaller ones, will get pinched by the half-penny hike.

"It's likely that they're going to have to eat that half-cent on every single beverage that they sell, which adds up," Lauren Zirbel said. "Under that business model they would be losing money the more product they sell, which is not ideal."

Health director Loretta Fuddy said the state needs $5 million a year to pay recyclers and run the program, and without an increase the fund can't continue through 2014.

"We feel confident in the management of that fund. And we feel confident in the revenues that are there, that it is well-balanced, and that it is a well-run program," she said.

The state could have made the increase four years ago but held off. Now merchants must decide how to carry it out at the cash register where consumers could end up paying more to quench their thirst.

"It's hard to say because it's a half a cent," Ito said. "I'm not sure if we pass that on to the customers as a full cent, or how we do that, or we eat the half a cent, which adds up over time."

The increase goes into effect September 1.

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