Proposal too weak to cut plastic bag use
A bill to require bag recycling bins at stores also would bar counties from adopting their own restrictions.
Legislation purportedly crafted to promote recycling of plastic shopping bags will do little more than maintain the status quo on bag usage, undermine the authority of county governments and eliminate an opportunity for recycling in state facilities.
The seemingly "green" bill also would create a new bureaucracy, with added costs for taxpayers. As currently written, the measure will do more harm than good, but will allow lawmakers to claim environmental laurels.
Earlier in the session, the House turned away a bill that would have required certain retailers to use biodegradable or reusable bags. Then, earlier this month, a sensible Senate bill, one to require segregated recycling bins in state facilities that had been advancing, was gutted and the language changed to establish a plastic bag recycling program at grocery stores.
Though called a program, stores would be required only to provide a bin where customers could, if they chose, drop bags and to sell reusable bags. Many stores already do both.
Stores would have to keep records of collections and recycling. However, the bill doesn't define recycling, so stores on Oahu, for example, could simply dump bags at the H-Power plant, as the city considers burning plastic to be recycling even though it produces greenhouse gases.
The state Health Department would be charged with compliance, adding another burden of rule-making, monitoring and expense.
More objectionable, the bill would forbid counties from passing their own laws or regulations to ban or place fees on plastic bags or require recycling, which Maui and Honolulu officials are considering. This intrudes on counties' home rule, imposing unwarranted restrictions on their authority.
Counties, not the state, are responsible for trash collection, disposal and landfills, and should be allowed to establish controls where they see fit.
A House panel hopes to remove the provision when the bill goes to conference committee. Still, the bill is too weak to make much of a difference and might be used later to block stronger measures that would.