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Should Hawaii ban plastic bags?

Richard C. BottiRICHARD C. BOTTI
 Lydi Morgan

The issue is more like: What would happen if we did, and what effect would the replacements have? Paper? Been there, done that. Paper bags generate 70 percent more emissions, and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags. They cost far more to produce and ship.

Compostable? They will only compost in a commercial compost facility. They will still fly out of the landfill, will contaminate plastic recycling efforts, and are far more costly. Biodegradable? When they fly out of the landfill, they will biodegrade, but we will end up with smaller pieces and bag dust. They also will contaminate plastic recycling efforts, and are far more costly.

The solution is to get as much plastic as possible out of the landfills by reducing, reusing and recycling with a touch of education.

• For retailers choosing to offer compostable bags, it’s important that they also provide a means for the bags to be recovered separately, and sent to a commercial compost facility.

• For retailers choosing to offer biodegradable bags, it is impor-tant that they also provide a means for the bags to be recovered
separately, since they will contaminate plastic recycling efforts.

• For retailers choosing to offer plastic bags, they need to close the loop by providing a means for consumers to return bags for recycling.

• Retailers must promote reusable bags to help reduce total consumption of any type of bag.

• For consumers, it is education. The “Knot Your Bag” Program is not a solution, but an immediate means of making a difference, since any type of bag that is knotted is not going to sail away.

• For government, landfills must do more to police the flying bag problem.

Banning any type of bag is not the solution.
With freedom comes responsibility, and our freedom to use non-biodegradable petroleum-based plastic bags has been exercised without regard for the huge costs that are incurred. Twelve million barrels of oil are required to produce the 100 billion plastic bags that Americans use each year. Globally, up to 1 billion seabirds, sea turtles, whales and other wildlife die each year due to the ingestion of plastic bags. The freedom to choose the cheapest and most convenient option continues at the expense of the health of the planet and the systems we depend on for life. When it comes to grocery bags, I personally choose to bring cloth bags with me every time I go to the store, and I support a ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags.

Opponents of the ban suggest a recycling campaign for plastic bags, but this does not address the use of nonrenewable resources during creation and transportation of the bags, nor the undeniable fact that a good percentage of bags will escape a recycling program. Responsible citizens know that efforts to reduce and reuse should always come before recycling.

As for the waste to energy argument, the same three-R principle applies. Instead of burning trash to power our homes and businesses, we can reduce our waste and use of nonrenewable resources while taking advantage of the incredible abundance of truly clean energy sources with which Hawaii is blessed.

The people that support the proposed ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags aren’t doing so because we want to tell others what to do, or to increase costs for anyone. We support it because we care about the planet, we care about Hawaii, our communities, our families and ourselves, and we recognize that the time is now to take responsibility for our actions and their impact.

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Apr 11, 2008 02:27 pm
 Posted by  Hopeful for Hawaii's Future

Bringing our own bags is simply a matter of getting used to doing it. How hard would it be for us to keep 5 canvas or other bags in the trunk of the car in case we end up at the store? In some areas of Europe, having your own totes for groceries is expected and normal. If it takes legislation for us to accept and make this transition, so be it....

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