The Green Leaf

Plastic bags and dog poop

April 26th, 2012
Plastic carryout  bags are expected to be banned in Honolulu starting in 2015, if the mayor signs it into law. Star-Advertiser photo.

Plastic carryout bags are expected to be banned in Honolulu starting in 2015, if the mayor signs it into law. Star-Advertiser photo.

Honolulu City Council passed a bill on Wednesday banning nonbiodegradable plastic bags at checkout starting July 1, 2015.

Well, it's about time, given that the neighbor isles (Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island) have already passed plastic bag bans. Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle still has to sign the bill.

So what if there's a plastic bag ban in Honolulu?

The first reaction you get from most folks opposed to the ban is — what am I going to line my wastebaskets with from now on, and from dog owners,  how am I going to pick up my dog's poop? I've had this conversation at the dog park, and there are some owners who are really resolute about their right to a plastic bag just for this very reason.

Finding alternatives to line your wastebasket with is tricky, I'll admit. I do reuse stray plastic bags (that somehow get sneaked into the house) to line the wastebasket.

But for the last two to three years, I've  been bringing my own bags to the grocery store and more and more, to other retail stores as well — or sometimes, simply saying, "No Thanks." I never really understood why you would need a small, plastic bag if you were simply buying a candy bar or bag of potato chips — couldn't you just take the receipt and put it straight into your purse or backpack?

As the owner of a Springer spaniel named Kona — and as the official dog walker in the family — yes, I do have the unglamorous task of picking up her poop. I haven't really found it difficult since switching to reusable bags.

The bag ban would not affect the bags used to package loose fruit, vegetables and nuts, nor does it affect newspaper bags.

We have a newspaper delivered to the door every morning, sometimes in just one bag and sometimes two. These bags actually are the perfect size for picking up dog poop – I find grocery bags to be more unwieldy, with a flyaway effect.

Bread bags also work — every time we go through a loaf of bread, I save the bag and reuse it.  It still probably isn't the greenest choice — maybe someone some day will invent a new way to pick up dog poop.

There's such a plethora of plastic bags in our lives that honestly, it's not a big deal to give up plastic checkout bags. It's nice to get rid of the plastic  bag monster under the sink.

If it came down to it, I suppose using biobags would be a greener option — they do cost money, but they work fine.

Still, the detrimental effects of plastic in the ocean is far greater than the inconvenience. I'm not just talking about choking up turtles — I'm talking about the health of the ocean's ecosystem and in turn, the health of humans who are interconnected with that ecosystem.

Now, we could have considered a fee for plastic and paper checkout bags, which was effective in Washington DC. The bill in the state legislature seeking to place a 10-cent fee on plastic and paper checkout bags stalled this session, though it had the backing of both retailers and environmental groups like the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club Hawaii.

But really, we can live without plastic (and paper) checkout bags. Just bring your own bag.

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