Officials’ eco-friendly agenda eyes city ban on plastic bags
Pair on City Council propose ‘visionary’ environmental bills
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Two City Council members introduced a package of bills yesterday aimed at protecting Honolulu's environment, including a ban on nonbiodegradable plastic bags for big businesses.
The plastic-bag ban was one of 18 initiatives created by Councilmembers Ann Kobayashi and Donovan Dela Cruz, who said the city needs to take the lead on guarding the island's environment by incorporating similar policies of "greener" U.S. cities.
Though some of the ideas might seem unrealistic or difficult to implement, councilmembers and residents say, the ideas will at least get people to become more environmentally conscious.
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When she remembers, Sally Fujita brings a canvas bag to the grocery store -- a small thing to do to help the environment, the Honolulu resident says.
More residents might imitate Fujita with the City Council to consider soon a series of environment-related bills introduced yesterday that include a ban on nonbiodegradable plastic bags in big businesses.
"We can't just sit back and let things happen," said Ann Kobayashi, one of the bills' introducers.
The 18 initiatives introduced yesterday also include promoting hybrid vehicles, encouraging homeowners to purchase solar water heaters and reducing water use by 1 percent every year for the next decade beginning with city and commercial facilities.
"The package is quite visionary," said Jeff Mikulina, director of the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Other American cities are welded to sustainability, but Honolulu is barely flirting with it. We have a long way to go in this city."
In recent years, environmental issues have becoming the leading topic among local officials across the country. Two months ago, Mayor Mufi Hannemann presented a 10-year Sustainability Plan on energy and water conservation.
Earlier this year, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban large supermarkets and drugstores from supplying plastic bags. That garnered national attention and prompted other cities, including Oakland, Calif., to follow its lead.
The proposal, Bill 84, introduced also by Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, would require all businesses with more than $1 million in annual gross sales to supply biodegradable bags, recyclable paper bags or reusable bags beginning a year after its approval, a process that could take several months.
The penalty proposed includes fines from $100 to $1,000 per day in violation.
Plastic bags are blamed for contributing to litter on the streets, burdening the city's only landfill and potentially killing marine life in addition to the millions of gallons of crude oil used to manufacture them.
David Galvez said the harmful impact to the environment is incentive enough for him to support the ban on plastic bags.
"There's a lot of reason not to use plastic bags," Galvez said yesterday while carrying several plastic bags outside of Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku Street.
"But there's a downside because we'd use more paper bags, and that would mean cutting down more trees."
Kevin Loscotoff, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said the company will be reviewing the proposal and that the stores offer customers the opportunity to recycle their plastic bags. However, many residents say they tend to reuse their plastic bags to collect trash, hold wet items on a beach day or to scoop dog waste.
Several of the initiatives overlap with goals outlined in Hannemann's 10-year sustainability plan that also includes promoting hybrid vehicles by providing parking incentives similar to handicapped parking privileges and boosting water conservation by repairing water fixtures.
Bill Brennan, a spokesman for the mayor, said in an e-mail, "Most everything they're proposing is already being implemented by the administration in some way, shape or form."
Under a series of bills introduced yesterday to help protect the environment, the City Council will also consider:
» Encouraging use of hybrid vehicles by waiving parking fees at meters and municipal lots and reducing the motor vehicle weight tax.
» Providing recycling receptacles at city parks and facilities, including beach parks, Blaisdell Center and Waikiki Shell.
» Conducting recycling workshops in public schools.
» Requiring all new building construction permitted on or after Jan. 1, 2010, to be more energy efficient under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Standards.
» Promoting solar water heaters by providing a one-time tax credit of $300 for installation on or after Jan. 1, 2008.