The Green Leaf

The "Bag Bill"

February 8th, 2012
A random plastic carryout bag that found its way to the beach. Photo by Nina Wu.

A random plastic carryout bag that found its way to the beach. Photo by Nina Wu.

Most Americans use a takeout plastic bag for an average of 15 minutes before throwing it away. Yet that bag, wherever it ends up — in the ocean or the landfill — will take hundreds and hundreds of years to break down.

If you support a reduction in single-use plastic bags, then tomorrow is your chance to show it at the state Capitol.

Two bills — HB2260 and SB2511 — are before the state legislature. A public hearing for the bill is scheduled before the Senate in conference room 225 at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday (Feb. 8).

House Bill 2260 would require businesses in the state to collect a fee for single-use checkout bags provided to a customer. Businesses would be allowed to keep 20 percent of the fees for the first year, and 10 percent of fees thereafter, subject to income and general excise taxes.

The Hawaii Food Industry Association, which represents many major supermarkets in Hawaii, actually supports the bill. In the past, the group opposed outright bans of plastic checkout bags which were proposed in bills in previous years. Safeway and Times also wrote letters supporting SB2511.

The Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation are rallying the public for support tomorrow.

Expect to see some 400 plastic and paper bags (the number an average person uses in a year) strewn over the Capitol lawn during a press conference at 1:45 p.m. tomorrow at the Capitol Rotunda.

Diana Sellner, a Girl Scout, and students from elementary schools and universities, will be on hand. The plastic bag monster is also expected to make an appearance.

Earlier this year, Hawaii county became the third in the state to ban plastic checkout bags at businesses. Hawaii county's law goes into effect next year. Maui and Kauai counties have already passed similar laws for about a year. Honolulu is the only remaining county without a plastic bag bill in place.

If the bill passes, it would not revoke existing bans on the neighbor isles.

For updates and more information on the "Bag Bills," visit the Sierra Club's Capitol Watch Opala Blog, Plastic Free Kailua's blog, and Kanu Hawaii's "5 questions (and answers) about plastic bag bills."

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