Saturday, November 6, 2010

Plastic bag regulation on City Council agenda 11/9. Submit your support testimony.

Honolulu City Council is considering regulation of single-use plastic bags at the Tuesday 11/09 Public Infrastructure Meeting (Bill 43).

Find out more here:

"This ordinance prohibits the distribution of nonbiodegradable plastic bags under certain conditions by certain businesses and encourages the use of environmentally preferable alternatives such as compostable bags, recyclable paper bags or reusable bags."

"Regulated businesses shall be prohibited from providing nonbiodegradable plastic bags without charge or with a charge of less than $0.05 per bag to their customers at the point of sale. (b) Regulated businesses shall provide customers only the following types of bags without charge at the point of sale: (1) Compostable bags; (2) Recyclable paper bags; or (3) Reusable bags."

PLEASE submit testimony (via email or in person) in support!
Help Hawaii be a model for sustainable choices!

Written testimony must be submitted by 1:00pm Monday.
Sample letter after the jump Dear Council...
Dear Council,

I am writing to comment in support of Bill 43. Regulating single-use plastic bags will help make Honolulu a model city for sustainable change.

Hawaii, especially Oahu, is at a crucial moment for waste management. Despite the efforts of the H-Power waste-to-energy program, high rates of recycling, and a high landfill diversion rate, our facilities and landfills are overwhelmed. Legislating source reduction and behavior changing regulation is the targeted solution.

The harmful cost of single-use plastics stretches from the oil it takes to produce it, to the health of the consumer, to the cost of disposal, and finally to the marine ecosystems it wrecks. Plastic is a material that the Earth cannot digest. Almost every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists. Once discarded in the environment, plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller particles. Patches of plastic pollution cover millions of square miles of ocean near Hawaii. Tragically, this plastic also ends up in the stomachs of marine birds and animals. Moreover, the creation and distribution of plastic products increases our polluting carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Reusable bags allow new avenues for marketing and save the retailer and consumer money. Consumers actually pay around $98.80 each year in hidden costs for so-called free bags. Further, reducing the consumption of single-use plastic bags will bring in money for our city and save money in clean-up costs. The taxpayer cost to subsidize the recycling, collection, and disposal of plastic and paper bags is as much as 17 cents per bag. States, cities, and counties spend $1.3 billion on general litter abatement, which is equivalent to about $4.41 per capita, per year.

Our taxpayer dollars are being used to subsidize the cost of waste. Much of this money could be redirected to benefit our state, such as going towards the Environmental Management Division, the Clean Water Branch (which has lost 4 of its 5 water quality monitors), or the Solid & Hazardous Waste Branch. Similar laws have been passed worldwide and have proven to be successful. For example, when Washington D.C. instituted its recent five-cent fee, bag use declined from an average of 22.5 million per month to 3 million in the very first month, and fees generated about $150,000 for use by the city.

This bill effectively addresses the issue of plastic pollution by positively changing consumer behavior, decreasing external costs, and decreasing the amount of waste Hawaii produces.

Mahalo for the opportunity to testify on this matter.

I am a member of Plastic Free Kailua, a coalition of community members and businesses that strives to educate the stores, restaurants, residents, and visitors of Kailua on the environmental and health benefits of going plastic free. Find out more about us at and for links to the sources of the statistics cited above.  PFK partners with the Kokua Hawaii Foundation Plastic Free Hawaii initiative and Kanu Hawaii.

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