Kauai Plastic Bag Ban

SUBHEAD: Plastic-bag ban up for vote on Kauai only needs four votes to pass.

 By Nina Wu on 23 September 2009 in the Star-Bulletin - 
 http://www.starbulletin.com/business/20090923_Plastic-bag_ban_up_for_vote_on_Kauai.html  

[IB Editor's Note: This item was deferred today until the next Coundil meeting.]

 
Image above: Plastic bags caught in trees near landfill. From http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=2d1kk8&s=3

Kauai County is poised to ban plastic carryout bags, with a County Council vote scheduled this afternoon. The bill was deferred last week and rescheduled for its second reading today. Only four supporting votes are needed to pass the bill. If passed, the Garden Isle would be following on the heels of a bill passed in Maui County in August of last year, banning all plastic checkout bags. Maui County became the first to pass the ban last year, but the law does not take effect until January 2011.

Hawaii County proposed a similar bill that was vetoed by acting Mayor Dixie Kaetsu last September. Now Kauai County is next, with a bill co-introduced by Council members Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara proposing that retailers -- from minimarts to plate-lunch spots, pharmacies and supermarkets -- offer only biodegradable, 100 percent recyclable paper or reusable tote bags. "It's a bill whose time has come," Bynum told the Star-Bulletin. "I drive down the roads of Kauai, and of the trash on the road, practically every third piece is a plastic bag."

Kauai's landfills are located next to the ocean, with winds that blow seaward, he said. Since introducing the bill, Bynum says he has personally made it a habit to bring reusable totes to the supermarket. "You walk the beaches here, and a lot of plastic, in little pieces, come up on the beaches," Bynum said. "I just felt like this was the next logical step in terms of environmental stewardship." If passed today, the bill would go into effect July 1, 2010, although businesses can ask for an extension of 18 months due to hardship. The bill was deferred to today after last-minute testimony opposing the measure came from the Kauai Chamber of Commerce.

"We support the spirit of what this bill is for," said Chamber President Randall Francisco, "but we felt that further government intervention was unnecessary." In time, consumers will begin using more reusable totes., he said, but with the bill's passage, they will ultimately be the ones who feel it in their pocketbooks, he said.

 The Hawaii Food Industry Association and Retail Merchants of Hawaii also oppose the ban, saying higher costs would be passed on to the consumer. Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., however, said he supported the bill, saying many communities around the country already have taken the step. The county is getting ready to distribute 25,000 free reusable bags to residents next month. Proponents of the ban say the petroleum-based product is bad for the environment, creating litter, choking marine life and taking 1,000 years to break down.

Mainland cities, including San Francisco and Malibu, California, already have banned plastic checkout bags. The Kauai County Council bill differs from the Maui bill in several ways:

  •  It allows for biodegradable bags, which it defines specifically as a bag with no petroleum-derived content conforming to a European standard. The Maui bill bans all plastic bags.
  •  It allows retail establishments to charge customers for the use of biodegradable or paper bags at checkout. The amount would be up to the retailer.
  •  On Kauai the penalties for violating the ban would be $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second violation within the same year and $500 for each additional violation in the same year. Kauai's county engineer would enforce the ban.
See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Waste Issues 9/21/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Get rid of plastic bags now! 5/14/09

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