Thursday, February 24, 2011

It’s in the bag

State lawmakers this session are once again considering legislation aimed at reducing the amount of plastic bags used in Hawaii stores. One bill would implement a total ban of single-use plastic bags in certain businesses, while the other two would require a small fee, paid by customers, for each single-use plastic checkout bag.

The bills alive and going through the legislative process are:

HB998 – Requires businesses in the State to collect a 5-cent fee for each single-use checkout bag provided to a customer. The fees collected will be deposited in the general fund. The bill in its current form will allow exemptions and also require fees to be collected on paper bags in counties that currently have ordinances banning plastic bags. Introduced by Rep. Mark Nakashima.

SB1059 – Prohibits certain businesses in the State from distributing single-use plastic checkout bags, which was introduced by Senator Clayton Hee.

SB1363 – Requires business to collect a 25 cent offset fee for distribution of every non-reusable checkout bag. The bill in its current form would allow exemptions for certain uses and for beneficiaries of the women, infants, and children program and the supplemental nutrition assistance program. It also allows the Department of Health to collect 75 percent of offset fee to be used for administration and enforcement, and allow businesses to retain 25 percent of the offset fee as taxable income, while exempting the offset fee from general excise tax. Introduced by Senator Mike Gabbard.

In August 2008, Maui County banned plastic bags, and Kauai County followed suit in October 2009. Both ordinances went into effect January 2011.

With the law just taking effect, and stores and the public adjusting to life without plastic, the impact of it is still unknown, but the Star Advertiser recently reported that food service industries are taking issue with the law. They are “complaining that other alternatives such as paper and cloth bags do not work as well, especially when food spills from containers.” A Kauai council member is considering introducing an amendment exempting food establishments from the law.

What’s next for the bills alive at the Legislature?

HB998 passed second reading and is now awaiting a hearing in the House Finance Committee. SB1059 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, February 22, 2011 and it will now go to the Senate floor for third reading. The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold decision making on SB1363 Friday, February 25, 2011 at 9 a.m. in conference room 211.


Anonymous said...

Unpublished UK Government research suggests the plastic bag may not be an eco-villain after all. Plastic bags are, for each use, almost 200 times less damaging to the climate than cotton bags favored by environmentalists, and have less than one third of the Co2 emissions than paper bags which are given out by retailers.

A plastic bag would have a baseline global warming potential of 1.57 kg Co2 equivalent, falling to 1.4 kg Co2e if re-used once, the same as a paper bag used four times (1.38 kg Co2e). A cotton bag would have to be re-used 171 times to emit a similar level, 1.57 kg Co2e providing you don't wash it.

All bags have an impact. The best solution would be to use a cotton bag several hundred times, probably using it constantly for years. If you are not going to do that, a plastic bag – re-used as a trash liner – is the next best option, better than paper. Avoid accepting a plastic bag unless you need one, though. Meanwhile, let's hold off on banning a wise environmental choice.

Anonymous said...

Kudo's to Kaua'i & Maui county.
Shame on the law makers who failed to research all the possible scenarios that could happen like the possible amendment exempting food establishment. This more money of the taxpayers being spent because of a 'burp'. Do it right the first time and save taxpayers money & time.

Anonymous said...

If plastic bags aren't going to be eliminated entirely, all plastic bags including trash liners imported to hawaii should be biodegradable: glad, hefty, ziploc, etc. These bags take a year or so before degrading, like the ones that used to be given at the UH Manoa Bookstore.

It would be pointless for us to have bags that only end up adding to the nondegrading plastic garbage in the Pacific. A number 1 priority should that could help--since making all plastic created items biodegradable won't be happening in the near future--should be to make all the produce grocery bags biodegradable.

These bags aren't used for much and most homes throw 5 to 10 of these grocery produce bags in the trash after one shopping trip. These produce bags have even gotten into our ocean and killed our endangered turtles, dolphins, and seals. Tips our government could use lie in videos taught and shown in schools that students and families can't do much about:
Message in the Waves
A convenient truth: Urban solutions from Curitiba, Brazil