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Plastic bag reduction bill heading for mayor’s desk

Plastic bags caught in trees along Mamalahoa Highway just south of Waimea. (Photo courtesy of Jenny Kalmbach)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

It was a long, drawn-out process, but the Hawaii County Council has voted to restrict availability of plastic shopping bags.

Bags will be freely handed out by grocery stores, retail shops and restaurants from one more year. However, according to the bill passed Wednesday, plastic bags will be restricted to produce and meat sections of grocery stores.

Council Chairman Dominic Yagong abstained from the vote, saying he works in the retail industry. The bill passed 5-3, with Hilo Councilmen Donald Ikeda, J Yoshimoto and Dennis Onishi casting ‘no’ votes.

Without a 6-vote veto-proof margin, the bill now needs Mayor Billy Kenoi’s signature.

Although Kenoi has not commented on the final bill, earlier this year he told Hawaii 24/7 he supported the intention of the measure. At the time, Kenoi said he had a problem with enforcement of such a measure, but would support it once the details were hammered out.

Introduced by Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann, the bill went through a number of revisions and a slate of public hearings before Wednesday’s vote.

The final version omits the original penalty clause, instead giving enforcement responsibility to the Department of Environmental Management. The effective date was moved to 2013 and retailers may sell plastic bags at checkout for an additional year.

Testimony at the public hearings and council meetings favored the bill, with many residents wanting to protect the environment and wildlife, especially sea turtles.

Opponents included those in the retail and restaurant industry concerned about the extra cost of paper bags, and a handful of residents who claimed the bill was unnecessary and the council was over-stepping its authority. Others said they re-use plastic bags to pooper-scoop their dogs.

Hoffmann has said he hopes the bill will raise awareness about the environmental hazards of plastic bags on the land and in the ocean. That, he said, in turn may prompt shoppers to choose paper bags or switch to reusable bags.

Maui and Kauai already have implemented similar bans. A bid last year to place a 10 cent fee on plastic bags died in the state Legislature.

3 Responses to “Plastic bag reduction bill heading for mayor’s desk”

  1. vet2640 says:

    Come on folks, take a good hard look the so-called plastic bags.
    It’s plastic, but not what Safeway, KTA, Foodland etc. would use, looks more like construction wrap, etc, which is more durable than the ordinary grocery plastic bag.
    This is “tyranny by a few on the majority”. Come on County Council, REFOCUS on whats really important for our community.

    Are you prepared for “OCCUPY HAWAII COUNTY COUNCIL”.

    MAYOR KENOI, DO THE RIGHT THING AND “VETO” this useless piece of useless legislation.

  2. Sensibility says:

    A plastic bag ban is nothing but the latest fad…these people claim that they go into the ocean and that turtles eat them…this of course is pure BS…..more turtles are killed by tiger sharks in our waters than ever even see a plastic bag…i swim in the ocean quite regularly..in four years i have seen like one…and no turtle is dumb enough to eat that regardless of what the enviro-nazis try to tell u…no….like most liberal causes…the real agenda is hidden….just another power play

  3. Bob says:

    Dear Mayor Kenoi, please consider the following:

    We know a majority of Big Island residents oppose the ban-the-bag bill.

    We recall the first plastic bags, great improvement over paper, no more soggy items falling on the floor, only once did a plastic bag break, the supermarket double-bagged for a while. (And fewer trees cut down.) Back home, they have various uses.

    You’ve seen folks pushing full carts out of supermarkets. If we have to start using those made-in-China reusable bags, how many will you need when you fill up your cart? And will they become germ havens, unless properly and thoroughly cleaned every time?

    I’m very concerned over what’s next? Plastic bags that line waste baskets in hospitals and hotels? Then who will have to fish out waste by hand? immigrants, many . . . from where? . . . how well do they speak English? . . . what’s their education? . . . what do they look like? Aren’t many of them the disadvantaged ethnic groups we’re supposed to look out for?

    Are latex gloves the answer? Then either they must dispose of the gloves after each emptying, using a lot of gloves, or else they make your beds and change pillow sheets and lay out your clean towels after fishing into the dirty waste baskets. And what happens to the gloves? Are latex gloves less “dangerous” than plastic?

    Plus, next the plastic bags lining our kitchen trash compactors? or do the bins just get dirtier and dirtier?

    And the large garbage bags we use in rubbish cans for pickup, or take to the dump? Again, the “dirty factor” if no bag.

    Then what’s next? Banning polystyrene for plate lunches and
    “doggie-bags”? Plastic cups for juice, soda, coffee? Back to what, paper, soggy paper, again?

    And what of plastic bottles for the drinks we buy? Do we ban them too?

    Paper doesn’t always decompose quickly in rubbish dumps. New York City phone books are found mostly intact after 50 years in the dump, just the outer pages deteriorated somewhat.

    Are we mistakenly going after the product instead of the person who carelessly disposes of rubbish? Doesn’t that seem a simplistic approach?

    We hope you’ll reject the ban-the-bag bill. The above are some of the reasons a majority who live here oppose it. Thank you in advance for our kind consideration of these thoughts, and aloha.

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