Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Groundhog Day: Let's rethink the plastic bag bill saga

Aloha gang, I wanted share a post from my Kanu Hawaii blog last week...Best, Rachel

All this nonsense and redirecting on the bag bills is disheartening to many. Just like with land rights/zoning/development bills in the County and State this year, legislators are not listening despite widespread public support, even outcry. It's getting to be like the film "Groundhog Day" to those of us who have worked so hard on the issue.

If you are interested in the latest news on the State and County level bag bills check here with Civil Beat and here with Sierra Club. Be warned, it is bewildering. But there are still things you can do to help the fight. Sample testimony here...

At Kanu Hawaii, we have done a good deal of research on plastics and bag related bills.
No matter how much research we do, there are limits to our reasoned arguments, facts, and figures. For one, the "fee" idea elicits a lot of emotion because it makes many automatically think "tax." As I write in the piece linked above the price of bags is buried in your purchase price and in your taxes for litter clean up already. The next understandable retort is "What about "biodegradable" plastic?" Well, I'm very sorry to explain that biodegradable and compostable plastic is a scam and carries misinformation, just like those plant bottles by Coca-Cola. Look, film plastic is very nasty, expensive, and difficult to recycle. And biodegradable plastic requires an industrial composter. It will not just melt away to nothing in your yard or at the landfill. And it will certainly still pose a threat to our marine environment. Further, putting plant based- or mixed-plastic in the recycling bin totally screws up the chemistry of the recycling chain based on the 1-7 classification numbers. And these products still require oil and water resources to make and move.

That said, there are some consquences to debate. What about the environmental impact of paper bags? How will this effect our use of other materials for trash bags? There is still research, education, and work to be done to offer the best alternatives. (Yes, I'm talking to those of you who keep asking what they will do with their dog poo. Rethink. Rethink your bread and produce bags, newspapers, compost pits.)
For me, growing the personal commitment to this issue remains a key element. Bringing your own bag is so easy and so vital. Arguably, you can't just legislate and hope to change the way all people look at the world. We still have work to do to get Oahu on board with a positive message. I'm preaching to the choir here, so I invite you to comment below on how we can move in new directions to build a positive and effective campaign.

For starters, I invite you to join a beach clean-up. After attending and organizing dozens of beach clean-ups, I'll let you in on a little secret: it's not (just) about cleaning the beach. If picking up an overflowing bag full of bottle caps, lighters, cigarette butts, and fishing gear doesn't change the way you look at what you buy and what you throw away, you are not paying attention. With Kokua Hawaii Foundation, we host 100s of children at our clean ups. The kids grasp it immediately and feel so much pride in bringing their own water bottle or shopping bag. So come on adults, time to step up.
You can join in a clean up on the Windward side the next two Sundays, 4/15 in Kailua and 4/22 for Earth Day at Mokapu'u Meadows. Details here...I'd love to see you and your whole family there.

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