Plastic Bag Battle

SOURCE: Faith Harding ( SUBHEAD: Some local and world news about the fight against plastic bags.
By Andy Parx on 17 August 2009 in Got Windmills? - Image above: Plastic bags on a beach. From
The gushing over Sunday’s piece by Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s “Five magic words: I don’t need a bag” commentary in the local newspaper- one we suspect was ghost-written by his top aide and mouthpiece Beth Tokioka- flooded cyberspace yesterday. “Ditto!!” wrote one environmental activist. “To all of us, we ARE making a difference and this mayor is an example of together, we can!! I'm bowled over!!” Another couldn’t contain herself saying “OMG thank you thank you thank you thank you and thank you!”. And of course refusing those nasty and often deadly non-biodegradables floating petro-products is something anyone with a cloth bag can and should do as Diana LaBedz letter today reiterates. But for the politically astute it’s what Carvalho didn’t say that sticks out like a shearwater’s plastic-distended belly- a promise to support and sign the bill set for public hearing on Wednesday that would ban stores from distributing those nasty pollutants. As a matter of fact for the more cynical among us it might seem like Carvalho is indeed saying that the real solution is not in the legislation introduced by Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara but solely in people refusing to accept them and instead bringing their own bags. Yeah- that’ll work... it’s worked so well that despite years of campaigns by groups like LaBenz’s Surfrider Foundation the bags are more ubiquitous and causing more destruction than ever. Gee, it couldn’t be because businesses who filled Carvalho’s campaign coffers last November are howling over the prospect of spending a few cents more on the biodegradable bags that are now or soon to be required on Maui, in San Francisco and in any growing number of jurisdictions across the country. The suspicions are well founded. Carvalho recently has been accused of trying to sabotage the curbside recycling part of the county’s solid waste reform efforts using the county’s standard “fire, ready, aim” operating procedure to institute a “pilot” curbside recycling program in Lihu`e despite the fact that there is no materials recovery facility or MRF yet to accommodate the separation of those collected recyclables. Why? Well that’s because, according to the administrations solid waste coordinator Troy Tanegawa, purchasing the bins with already appropriated monies was “the low hanging fruit” of recycling efforts. Of course the crop was nowhere near ripe but politically it will provide a good sounding half truth during November 2010 campaign when Carvalho claims he “instituted curbside recycling”. While the naive and easily duped might at best see it as the usual county incompetence others see it as a cynical attempt to make sure the pilot program fails so the county can build it’s long-desired “silver bullet” incinerator to burn all our rubbish (supposedly for energy) and in addition build a new landfill- two insanities that result from their refusal to hire a “zero waste” consultant and rather go with good old boy’s favorite consultants R.W. Beck that has been behind the failure to properly deal with solid waste on the island for over 20 years now. We- and Zero Waste Kauai- been proponents of a full curbside recycling preceded by the construction of a MRF, a “hard to recycle good” facility, composting of green waste and other trash stream reduction measures. We’ve even suggested shipping the small amount of waste that’s left (some say as low as 10% or less although 20-25% is commonly cited) off island where mainland landfills are fighting over who will get Honolulu’s waste. We’ve even been proponents of a “ship it in, ship it out” law requiring that larger businesses whose products generate huge amounts of waste to deal with the aftermath. While some say it’s “unethical” to foist our opala on others they forget that we are in a unique situation where all but our green waste is already shipped in and shipping that stuff out is only the fulfillment of the ecosystem we’ve created. And, despite 15 years of asking, Beck has never done a full cost analysis of shipping trash including all the secondary and even tertiary expenses of our current land filling adventures although this time they have a brief dismissive paragraph in their latest report. We can “do” zero waste here- as a matter of fact we’re uniquely situated and circumstanced to make it work. But that would take some vision and ability to grasp a changing paradigm for dealing with solid waste- a can of worms that our politically motivated elected officials have kicked down the road for decades. Watch out for the Trojan Horse- let the mayor know that telling people to “just say no” is an ineffective substitute for banning the non-biodegradable plastic bags entirely by law. You can do so at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday (8/19) in the council chambers at the historic county building when bill 2321 is up for public hearing . If you can’t make it you can email testimony to ... and make sure you email a copy to hizzonnah and let him know you expect him to support and sign the bill when it lands on his desk.

No More Plastic Bags for Mexico City
SOURCE: Ken Taylor (
Mexico City’s thousands of stores went green Wednesday, as amended ordinances on solid waste now outlaw businesses from giving out thin plastic bags that are not biodegradable. The law affects all stores, production facilities and service providers within the Federal District, which encompasses the city limits. Nearly 9 million people live inside the district and another 10 million reside in surrounding communities that make up greater Mexico City. Mexico City becomes the second large metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw the bags. San Francisco enacted an ordinance in March 2007 that gave supermarkets six months and large chain pharmacies about a year to phase out the bags. Los Angeles is set to impose a ban if the the state of California does not impose a statewide 25-cent fee per bag by July of next year. Bans are also in place elsewhere in the world. China has adopted a strict limit, reducing litter and eliminating the use of 40 billion bags, the World Watch Institute said, citing government estimates. Although compliance has been spotty, violation of the law carries a possible fine of 10,000 yuan ($1,463), World Watch said. In Tanzania, selling the bags carries a maximum six-month jail sentence and a fine of 1.5 million shilling ($1,137). Mumbai, India, outlawed the bags in 2000 and cities in Australia, Italy, South Africa and Taiwan have imposed bans or surcharges. Ireland reported cutting use of the bags by 90 percent after imposing a fee on each one. Some leading environmentalists are calling for a global ban on the bags, about 5 trillion of which are used worldwide. In the United States, about 100 million bags are used each year, of which 90 million are not recycled. Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, says plastic bags are the second-most-common form of litter, behind cigarette butts. The bags are the greatest form of litter on the globe’s oceans, the U.N. agency said in a recent report. The bags are also a major threat to ocean wildlife, causing the deaths of 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animals that mistake them for food. “Thin-film, single-use plastic bags, which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere,” Steiner said in June. “There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere.” Mexico City, which has had some of the worst air pollution in the world, also is looking at improving its environment in other ways. The municipal government announced this month it will place more than 1,100 bicycles at 84 stations throughout the city for residents to use. Officials said they hope to increase bicycle use as a form of transportation to 5 percent, up from the current 1.2 percent.

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