Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hawai'i Plastic Bag Legislation this session! UPDATED 3.19.11

Below is an overview of the plastic bag bills in the legislature right now. We also want to introduce you to Sierra Club's Capitol Watch website, which will be tracking these bills under the category of "Opala" (Trash) and other bills that affect our oceans under the category of "Marine Coastal." Please bookmark this website because we're partnering with Sierra to make this our one-stop shop for checking on the status of bills, learning about their content and submitting online testimony.

If you want to learn more about the legislative process and submitting testimony, Kanu Hawaii is hosting fun & informal Rotunda Roundup Workshops Thursdays at 5:30pm at the Capitol. This part of their Citizen Challenge 2011. They have invited Stuart Coleman of Surfrider Foundation to talk about the plastic bag bills, what we can do to advance them and reduce plastic pollution in Hawaii on 2/3. Robert Harris of the Hawaii Sierra Club will speak 2/10.

Stuart writes: "We have a lot of momentum to pass one of the bag bills this session--so let's rally and make it happen! We are part of a national and local movement that includes Surfrider, Sierra Club, Kokua HI, Kanu HI, Plastic-Free HI, the Plastic Pollution Coalition and many other groups and individuals."

Here's a list of the bag bills this session:

SB1363 -- Requires businesses to collect an offset fee for distribution of every non-reusable checkout bag. Provides for the department of health to collect seventy-five per cent of offset fee to be used for administration and enforcement. Allows businesses to retain twenty-five per cent of offset fee as taxable income. Exempts offset fee from excise tax. **NEEDS TESTIMONY NOW**
3/18/2011HBill scheduled to be heard by EEP/ERB on Tuesday, 03-22-11 10:40AM in House conference room 312.
This measure creates a fee for all single-use bags, paper or plastic, and gives stores a reason to encourage their customers to use less harmful bags. This simple fee would help make shoppers aware of the economic and environmental costs of single-use bags in Hawai‘i. Single-use bags are simply not in Hawai`i’s sustainable future and strong efforts should be made to discourage their continued use. Single use bags are an expense that is not directly visible to consumers, but an average supermarket can spend $1,500 to $6,000 a month to provide them. By assessing a fee, we actualize this cost, create a disincentive to the continued use of the bags, and provide the State with needed income for sorely underfunded environmental programs. For more info contact Opala Captain Joy Leilei Shih at
 SB1059 - This bill is a plastic bag ban that allows stores to still distribute paper or biodegradable plastic bags. It currently states that beginning on July 1, 2012, businesses with annual gross sales of over $300,000 are prohibited from distributing single-use plastic checkout bags to their customers at the point of sale.e.

3/8/2011HReceived from Senate (Sen. Com. No. 234) in amended form (SD 2).
3/10/2011HPass First Reading
3/10/2011HReferred to EEP, ERB, FIN, referral sheet 33

    SB1370 – This ban bill would require businesses with annual gross sales of over $250,000 to switch to biodegradable plastic bags beginning on January 1, 2012.

    HB891 - This bill would ban non-compostable plastic bags beginning January 1, 2013 for all business operators of businesses with annual gross sales of $500,000 or more.

    HB998 – This bill would require businesses to collect a 10 cent fee on disposable plastic checkout bags beginning January 1, 2012. The business would keep half of the fee, and the other half would go towards the Energy sustainability special fund.
    2/18/2011HPassed Second Reading as amended in HD 1 and referred to the committee(s) on FIN 
    3/03/2011 We'd like a House Bill to increase the chances of success! HB 998 has not been scheduled for its final hearing, and this is the last week to do so before it dies. Please CALL Rep. Oshiro's office TODAY and ask him to schedule a Finance Committee hearing 808-586-6200. 

    HB1401 – This bill mandates the use of recyclable, compostable, and reusable checkout bags by businesses with annual gross sales over $250,000 beginning January 1, 2012.

    HB1601 - This bill states that beginning on July 1, 2012, all business operators are prohibited from providing plastic carryout bags to consumers at the point of sale, including compostable plastic bags, but still allowing paper bags.

    Note: Most bills still allow plastic bags necessary for produce, grains, newspapers, dry-cleaning, prescriptions and the like. As currently stated in the bills, a statewide fee would not overturn the bans already in place in Maui and Kauai counties.

    You can testify by going to and referencing the bill number, your name, address, and the date/time of the hearing.

    Sample Testimony: (Make it your own and add specific details that you support about each bill. You can mention that you are a member of PFH and want to reduce plastic pollution and the amount of waste going into our environment, oceans and landfills.) See/ Add more in Comments below...

    I am writing to comment in support of Bill -----. Regulating single-use plastic bags will help make Hawaii a model state 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 hidden costs for so-called free bags. Further, reducing the consumption of single-use plastic bags will bring in money for our state and save money in clean-up costs. The taxpayer cost to subsidize the recycling, collection, and disposal of plastic and paper bags is more than the cost of the bag.

    Our taxpayer dollars are being used to subsidize the cost of waste. Much of this money could be redirected to benefit our state. 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.

    I am a member of Plastic Free Hawaii (Kailua Chapter), 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

    Mahalo for the opportunity to testify on this matter.

    Learn more about the HI Legislative Process at the links above and at the Hawaii Public Access Room.

    Surfrider will also be hosting a free and fun screening of the new documentary "Bag It" at the Capitol with pupus and a panel discussion afterward on Wed., 2/16, at 5:30pm in the Auditorium. You can learn more and RSVP at Facebook.


    1. Other sample testimony

      This one is from our friends at Styrophobia!/Styrophobia

      In Support of Senate Bill XXX
      Good afternoon Senators XX and XX.

      My name is __________ and I am a concerned citizen. I am writing in support of XXX. Bills just like this one have been enacted all over the world with great success, both generating income for the state and encouraging consumers to reduce waste, thereby protecting our environment, food-chain and landfills.

      Today, it's not hard to find a nearby city, county, state, or country that has enacted some type of single-use plastic and/or paper legislation to reduce waste and encourage consumers to make environmentally and socially responsible choices.

      In our nation’s capitol and in other countries like Australia, Italy, and Mexico, they placed a small fee on these wasteful petroleum products—in Washington, D.C., plastic bag use dropped 60% in the first month! In Ireland, they charged a fee on plastic bags, and their use dropped 90% in one year. Cities and counties all over the mainland have enacted similar legislation over the past couple years.

      Reusable cloth and nylon bags can be purchased for a dollar (sometimes free) and used for years and years. Like any change in policy, of course consumers will take a little while to get used to bringing their own bags, but soon it will become second nature just like in all the aforementioned regions that have had fees or bans for years.

      According to an article in the Honolulu Advertiser (March 8, 2010), people on Oahu use an estimated “300 million bags or more annually.” Oahu can no longer afford to plug its municipal systems and landfills with single-use bags. Our neighbor islands Kauai and Maui have enacted bans on single-use plastic bags. While we do not want to reverse the local legislation in those counties, the remaining parts of the state can catch up and make Hawaii a model for the rest of the mainland. We have an opportunity to lead by encouraging consumers to reuse bags when possible. We must being to protect our beautiful island home by reducing the massive amount of waste and plastic pollution we generate on a daily basis.


    2. From Surfrider and Rise Above Plastics

      We, the undersigned, are opposed to the proliferation of single-use plastic bags across the state of Hawaii for the following reasons:

      • Plastics of all kinds are the number one source of marine debris, and these inorganic substances never biodegrade but remain in the environment

      • Each year, plastic bags, fishing nets and other petroleum-based products lead to the deaths of millions of sea birds and hundreds of thousands of marine animals including endangered monk seals and sea turtles due to entanglement and ingestion

      • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic bags each year, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to produce, and less than 5% are ever recycled

      We therefore support a ban of single-use plastic bags to be phased in across the state. We also strongly support the use of reusable tote bags and canteens and are committed to help Hawaii’s environment become plastic-free.

      Source: Please contact with concerns