Baggy ban proposals pit cost vs. cleanliness


POSTED: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

State lawmakers will consider banning plastic bags for isle retailers, a move that is already in the works on Maui.






        Three bills regarding the use of plastic bags are scheduled for the Energy and Environment committee at 2:45 p.m. tomorrow in conference room 225 at the state Capitol:

SB584: Prohibits distribution of plastic shopping bags by retail stores and supermarkets in the state, effective Jan. 1, 2011.


SB244: Provides a refund or store credit to retail store customers who do not use free plastic shopping bags offered by the establishment.


SB245: Establishes a statewide plastic carryout bag recycling program, requiring certain retailers to collect and recycle plastic bags in their stores. Creates a ban on plastic bags effective Jan. 1, 2011.


Two bills to be considered by a Senate committee tomorrow would ban the use of plastic bags by 2011, while another would mandate stores offer a financial incentive to customers to reject the bags.

The Hawaii Food Industry Association, which represents most supermarkets, and the Retail Merchants of Hawaii oppose the measures.

Richard Botti, president of the HFIA, said he sees flaws in all three bills, but opposes them mainly due to the additional cost.

“;Everything's going to be passed on to the consumer,”; said Botti. “;If it costs the store more, the store's got to include it in the prices.”;

The bills are:

» Senate Bill 245 establishes a statewide at-store plastic carryout bag recycling program, and seeks to prohibit the distribution of plastic shopping bags by Jan. 1, 2011.

» Senate Bill 244 requires stores to offer a refund or store credit to customers who opt not use complimentary plastic shopping bags in two years.

» Senate Bill 584 also seeks a ban by Jan. 1, 2011, while it also would allow for biodegradable plastic bags, with possible exceptions for raw meat, poultry or fish, frozen foods, fresh produce and prepared meals in takeout containers.

Compostable bags have not proven to work unless they go to a commercial compost facility, Botti said, although biodegradable bags would be more acceptable.

Instead of recycling plastic bags, Botti said they are better off converted into energy at the HPOWER waste-to-energy plant.

Requiring retailers to pay customers for bags they bring in — although many already do — could cause a big audit problem, he said. Many supermarkets, including Safeway, Foodland, Star Market and Times, already offer customers a 3-to-5 cent credit on their bill for each bag they bring in on their own.

Supporters of the bills, including the Hawaii chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, say the measures would address the harm plastic bags cause to the waterways and marine life.

The Sierra Club supports establishing a recycling program, with a ban in 2011.

SB584 was introduced by Sen. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai) while the other two bills were introduced by Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kalaeloa-Makakilo), who is chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee.

“;We've got to do something about the litter caused by plastic bags,”; said Gabbard. “;It just doesn't make sense to have plastic bags filling up our landfills or flying into the ocean or through our neighborhoods. We're trying to come up with the best bill possible, taking into account the input we've received from the community, businesses and my colleagues.”;

Several mainland cities, including San Francisco, have banned plastic carryout bags, while others are considering them.

Maui County last year approved a ban on plastic shopping bags beginning in 2011.

Hawaii County tried to pass a similar bill, but it failed by one vote.

Maui Councilman Michael Molina has testified in favor of a statewide plastic bag ban.