Hawaii to Ban Plastic Bags


First Statewide Ban of Plastic Bags

July 26 2012

Story at-a-glance

  • In a first of its kind move in the United States, the residents of Hawaii have collectively said “No!” to plastic bags; a ban is slated to take effect July 1, 2015
  • Los Angeles recently became the largest city in the United States to ban plastic bags at supermarket checkout lanes
  • Several other cities in California have already banned plastic bags, as have Seattle, Washington and Aspen, Colorado
  • Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they break down into smaller and smaller bits, contaminating waterways and putting marine life, who mistake the plastic for food, at risk
  • Only about 1-5 percent of plastic bags are recycled; there’s also little economic incentive to do so
  • You don’t need to wait for a legislative ban to come to your area – you can enact your own “ban” starting today

By Dr. Mercola

In a first-of-its-kind move in the United States, the residents of Hawaii have collectively said “No!” to plastic bags.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle penned the crowning achievement when he signed a bill banning the bags beginning July 1, 2015.

While Honolulu’s new law does have some exceptions, like plastic bags for newspaper delivery, frozen foods and flowers, within three years Hawaii will be the first state in the union to have banned the vast majority of the bags everywhere in the state.

Is It Time to Say Goodbye to the Plastic Bag?

In Hawaii, the ban was accomplished by each of the state’s counties banning them on an individual basis, rather than by a state law. Carlisle’s signature in the last county to ban the bags completed the act of essentially making it a statewide rule without ever having to go before the state legislature.

Some of the bans are already in place or scheduled to begin next year, with fines of up to $1,000 for each day of violation. The plastic bag issue is particularly important for Hawaii as it is in the middle of the ocean and it is very easy for bags to blow into the ocean.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles became the largest city in the United States to ban plastic bags at supermarket checkout lanes. The city gave stores 16 months to phase them out, at which time shoppers will have to bring their own reusable bags or pay 10 cents for each paper bag.

The trend seems to be picking up speed. San Jose, San Francisco, Pasadena, Monterey, Long Beach, and other cities in California have already banned them. Seattle, Washington’s bag ban, which was passed in December 2011, took effect in July 2012, and other areas, such as Aspen, Colorado, have adopted similar bans.

Around the world, countries including China and Ireland are taking a stand against the use of these highly polluting bags, adopting measures ranging from bans to fees on plastic bags in order to reduce their use. Bag taxes can also be incredibly effective. Washington DC put into effect a 5-cent tax on plastic bags two years ago, and the number of plastic bags given by businesses to customers dropped from 22.5 million per month in 2009 to a mere 3 million per month, almost as soon as the tax went into effect.

In Illinois, however, a bill is on the table (SB 34421) that requires plastic bag recycling programs, but would make it illegal for any city in the state to ban the use of plastic bags — and it’s currently waiting a decision from the governor.

Shocking Statistics About Plastic Bag Waste

For a succinct and entertaining introduction to the waste that is the plastic bag, I highly recommend the film “Bag It.”2 It is a truly eye-opening look to the vastness of the problem, and the immense waste that could be spared if more Americans toted a reusable bag with them to the grocery store. As their web site reports:3

“In the United States alone, an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used annually to make the plastic bags that Americans consume. The United States International Trade Commission reported that 102 billion plastic bags were used in the U.S. in 2009. These bags, even when properly disposed of, are easily windblown and often wind up in waterways or on the landscape, becoming eyesores and degrading soil and water quality as they break down into toxic bits.

Their manufacture, transportation and disposal require large quantities of non-renewable resources and release equally large amounts of global-warming gases.”

On a worldwide scale, each year about 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. At over 1 million bags per minute, that’s a lot of plastic bags, of which billions end up as litter each year, contaminating oceans and other waterways.

Plastic Bag Bits are Now Taking Over Our Oceans

Plastic bags, like the petroleum they are made from, don’t biodegrade very well at all, rather, they photodegrade. Meaning, they break down into smaller and smaller toxic bits, which contaminate soil and waterways, and enters the food chain — animals accidentally eat these bits and pieces, mistaking them for food. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):4

“Studies have shown that fish and other marine life do eat plastic. Plastics could cause irritation or damage to the digestive system. If plastics are kept in the gut instead of passing through, the fish could feel full (of plastic not food) and this could lead to malnutrition or starvation.

… Plastic debris accumulates persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) up to 100,000 to 1,000,000 times the levels found in seawater (Mato et al. 2001). Oceanic fragments have also tested positive for other POPs, such as DDT, PAHs, and aliphatic hydrocarbons. Many of these pollutants, such as PCBs and DDTs, are known endocrine disruptors and developmental toxicants.”

The problem is so severe that multiple plastic “stews” have formed in the oceans. Scientists have dubbed one of the masses of plastic bags, jugs, bottles, nets, and other plastic junk the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” and its volume is growing at an alarming pace.  In some areas, it’s said that there are 40 times more plastic in the water than plankton!5

Of course, plastic bags aren’t only a problem in the oceans; they’re a problem on land, too. It’s estimated that plastic bag use in the United States create 300,000 tons of landfill waste each year, and those chemical-laden materials will not stay contained forever.

According to the Clean Air Council:6

“The barriers of all landfills will eventually break down and leak leachate into ground and surface water. Plastics are not inert, and many landfill liners and plastic pipes allow chemicals and gases to pass through while still intact.”

Is Recycling the Answer?

Recycling is clearly better than tossing a plastic bag in the trash, but the truth is that only about 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled7 and some estimates place that at closer to 1 percent. This isn’t only a matter of consumers not playing their part: the truth is that plastic bag recycling isn’t profitable like say, aluminum cans. It reportedly costs $4,000 to process and recycle one ton of plastic bags, which have a market value of only $32!8 And, adding insult to industry, many plastic bags that are recycled are shipped to China to do so, another major waste of energy.

Reuseit.com reported:9

“Many plastic bags collected for recycling are wastefully shipped to overseas processing facilities. According to a 2007 American Chemistry Council report, 10 the U.S. exports 57% of its postconsumer recovered film to China (25% of which consists of plastic bags, contained under the blanket term “mixed film”) where there once were “thousands” of plastic processing centers.

However, when the economic downturn happened in late 2008, many of these Chinese plastic processors went out of business. Bottom line: there is a glut of this material that is not getting recycled, leaving material recovery facilities with bales of collected recyclable plastic with no one to sell it to.”

Ready to Ditch Plastic Bags?

Plastic bags may seem like an insignificant issue, but they add up significantly over time. This is one area where virtually everyone can have a dramatic impact for change, especially if you encourage your friends, family and neighbors to follow your lead. You don’t need to wait for a legislative ban to come to your area – you can enact your own “ban” starting today. Top tips for ditching plastic bags, and other forms of plastic waste, include:

  • Carry reusable shopping bags – keep them in the trunk of your car, or stash a couple of the small fold-up varieties in your purse so you’re always prepared
  • Avoid plastic produce bags – put the produce right into your reusable cloth bag instead
  • Use reusable cloth bags for packaging your child’s school lunch and snacks
  • Ditch bottled water – opt for reusable glass or stainless steel bottles instead
  • Buy milk and other beverages in reusable glass bottles

from:    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/07/26/no-to-plastic-bags.aspx?e_cid=20120726_DNL_artNew_1




On Getting Rid of Plastic Bags

Cities Take Up the “Ban the Bag” Fight

Why new policies across the nation could mean the end of plastic bags.
posted Dec 19, 2011


Plastic Bag photo by Kate Ter Haar

Photo by Kate Ter Haar.

Environmental activists are reducing plastic waste pollution by tackling disposable plastic bags, one city at a time. About 20 U.S. cities and towns have passed disposable bag reduction laws, including San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Whether they impose a nominal fee for single-use, disposable bags, or ban them altogether, the laws encourage consumers to develop habits to replace disposable bags, particularly those made from plastic.

The most recent city to join the effort to ban the bag is Portland, Ore., which has banned single-use plastic bags at the checkouts of large retailers. The change was met with overwhelming support from most Portlanders, says Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres Institute, who helped give out free reusable bags at grocery stores to ease the transition for shoppers on October 15, when the ban took effect.

The Portland ordinance, unanimously approved by Portland City Council, was the culmination of a four-year campaign by the Surfrider Foundation Portland Chapter, 5 Gyres Institute, and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. It reflects growing public concern about the environmental impact of disposable plastic.

“Plastic bags typically have a low recycling rate, seem to be littered often and have an easy alternative in reusable bags,” says Bill Hickman, coordinator of the Surfrider Foundation’s “Rise Above Plastics” program. “We hope that people understand some of the unintended consequences that go along with a disposable lifestyle.”

plastic bag still
The Majestic Plastic Bag
The epic journey of a plastic bag from its release into the wild to ultimate destination in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Disposable shopping bags are a significant source of plastic pollution in the oceans, where scientists have identified five huge gyres of “plastic soup.” “We’ve reached a tipping point where we can’t keep up with the stuff that’s in the ocean,” says Wilson, who has visited three of the gyres for research. “I’ve seen it firsthand, and it’s startling.”

Proponents of ban-the-bag ordinances have faced powerful industry-backed counter-campaigns. The American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing plastics manufacturers, defeated legislation for a statewide ban on single-use bags in California, and spent $1.4 million in Seattle in 2008 to defeat a referendum that would have imposed a 20-cent fee on disposable grocery bags. Plastic bag manufacturer and recycler Hilex Poly Company funded a campaign that defeated Oregon’s proposed statewide ban earlier this year.

Campaigners hope the success of municipal ordinances will motivate grocers to support statewide bans in the near future.

from:    http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-yes-breakthrough-15/cities-take-up-the-ban-the-bag-fight