Hawaii County backs plastic bag bill
Citing the need to protect the environment, the Hawaii County Council yesterday voted 5 to 3 to ban Big Island businesses from offering plastic checkout bags, following suit after Maui.
Much like Maui's ordinance, the Hawaii "plastic bag reduction" bill proposes prohibiting all businesses from providing plastic checkout bags - both compostable and non-biodegradable plastic bags - to customers at the point of sale.
The Hawaii County bill, however, would go into effect beginning one year from the law's passage.
Maui's bill, which was signed by Mayor Charmaine Tavares on Monday, goes into effect on Jan. 11, 2011, in order to give businesses time to prepare for the new ordinance.
The Big Island bill also encourages businesses to offer customers either recyclable paper bags or reusable tote bags made of fabric or other durable materials.
It goes one step further in defining a "recyclable paper bag" as one that contains no old growth fiber, in addition to being 100 percent recyclable and containing a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content.
Both the Maui and Big Island bills call for fines of up to $1,000 a day for violations.
The Big Island bill, however, specifies a penalty of $1,000 or 200 hours of community service for each offense.
The fines collected in both Maui and the Big Island are to be deposited into funds for preserving open space and natural resources.
While Maui's mayor wasted no time in signing the bill into law, Hawaii Mayor Harry Kim has taken no position yet on the plastic bag ban, according to his spokeswoman, Janet Snyder.
Dick Botti, president of the Hawaii Food Industry Association, which represents most major supermarkets in the isles, opposed both bills.
"We'll make it work, but it's going to be higher costs and inconvenience for the consumer," said Botti. "There's going to be a problem with wet and frozen goods."
Botti said paper bags could cost five to 10 times more, and will be more expensive to ship because they take up more space and weigh more.
Many supermarkets and stores, from Safeway to Wal-Mart, already sell reusable totes. Macy's began selling a 100-percent cotton canvas tote in March as part of its "Turn Over A New Leaf" environmental awareness campaign.
Down to Earth Natural Foods, which has stores on Oahu and Maui, voluntarily began using compostable plastic bags earlier this year. Whole Foods Market, meanwhile, will open its doors in Hawaii next month without plastic bags.