Get rid of plastic bags now!

SUBHEAD: Council members, nonprofit push for plastic bag ban.
By Coco Zickos on 14 May 2009 in The Garden Island Image above: A sea turtle ingests a plastic bag thinking it's a jellyfish. From Hanalei — A white plastic bag silently drifts across the highway, floating closer and closer to a nearby beach and threatening to be swept out to sea. Some might not think twice about the damage this single non-biodegradable plastic bag may cause the environment as they drive by and go about their busy day. On the other hand, there are a few eco-chic businesses on the island that are taking the matter seriously and are doing something to help reverse the harmful situation. “This is about the ocean and preserving Kaua‘i,” said Beatrice Allen, owner of Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant, Fish Market & Sushi Lounge, when asked why they use only biodegradable materials. “We believe in educating and raising awareness, from our family at the Dolphin to our customers.” Patrons won’t find plastic anywhere near their take-out food at the Hanalei Dolphin, as the business uses products such as to-go containers made from potatoes and bags made from corn. “I don’t think we’re doing anything above and beyond what other people should do or would do if they thought about it,” said Mitch McPeek, general manager of Hanalei Dolphin, Wednesday. He admits that biodegradable materials do come at a higher price, but benefits of using them far outweigh the costs. “Even if it costs a little more money, it comes back to you, as far as building a business is concerned, and it comes back to you in ways that you can’t really explain,” McPeek said. “We should take care instead of just taking.” Kaua‘i may soon follow the lead of Maui in limiting the amount of plastic bags used on the island. County Councilmembers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara are working on introducing legislation that would disallow plastic bags to be distributed at point of sale and retail establishments and would only permit the use of paper bags and compostable bags. “We need to take care of our planet and this island,” Bynum said in a phone interview Wednesday. He added that it has “become clear” plastic bags are unnecessary and harmful to the planet; they are difficult to recycle and remain in the environment for “many, many years.” Bynum said the bill is close to submission, though he is expecting another couple months for further review. With the research and input acquired from the community, including Zero Waste Kaua‘i, he added that “we can anticipate making it a strong bill.” It is his hope that the ban would eventually go into effect by January 2011; the same as Maui. “The time has come; this is the logical next step,” he said. Across the street at Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s office, the administration says it remains concerned about the environment but seems to favor incentivizing the behavior as opposed to banning the sale of plastic bags. “The mayor has no immediate plans to introduce legislation banning plastic bags, however, efforts like that of some Kaua‘i retail outlets to incentivize the use of reusable grocery bags via discounts or rebates is a great first step in reducing the number of plastic bags on Kaua‘i,” said Beth Tokioka, the mayor’s executive assistant, in an e-mail Wednesday. Certain markets on the island are offering reimbursements of up to 15 cents for shoppers that utilize their own bags, according to a letter published in Tuesday’s edition of The Garden Island, written by John Harder, chair of Zero Waste Kaua‘i. “Not only do plastic bags create unsightly litter on our beautiful Kaua‘i, but they also put an additional burden on our landfill and contribute to the potential death of marine animals through entanglement and ingestion,” he wrote. For more information, visit Quit using plastic bags - By John Harder on 12 May 2009 in The Garden Island Zero Waste Kaua‘i would like to commend Papayas, Foodland, Star Markets, Sueoka’s and Safeway for their leadership in providing reimbursements (as shown below) to shoppers who bring their own bags when shopping in those stores. Papayas (15 cents), Sueokas (5 cents), Star Markets (5 cents), Foodland (5 cents), Safeway (3 cents cloth bag, 1 cent plastic bag). Mahalo to these local stores for encouraging all of us to reduce our plastic grocery bag usage. Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags each year, causing many problems for the environment and wildlife. It also takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce these bags. Not only do plastic bags create unsightly litter on our beautiful Kaua‘i, but they also put an additional burden on our landfill and contribute to the potential death of marine animals through entanglement and ingestion. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade; they can take 1,000 years to decompose. The environmental problems caused by plastic bags are felt worldwide. Zero Waste Kaua‘i applauds the above businesses for changing their policies to encourage the right habits. They deserve our appreciation and support. We can all make a difference when shopping by bringing our own cloth bags for carrying groceries.

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