Environmentally conscious Hawaii bans plastic bags

Posted Feb 13, 2014 by Karen Graham
About 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Of that number, more than 380 billion are used in the U.S. alone. Plastic bags are a big business in the U.S., but the environmental threat posed by them is even bigger.
Plastic bags along a river bank
Plastic bags along a river bank
Ivy Main
Because of environmental concerns over plastic bags piling up in landfills, polluting the ocean, and causing harm to fish and other organisms in the sea, Hawaii has banned the use of plastic bags at the checkout counter.
Hawaiians have always valued and had a great reverence for the land. Being a bigger-than-life marine ecosystem, Hawaii is also directly exposed to the environmental pollution plastic bags cause. All four of Hawaii's populated counties have banned handing out plastic bags at the checkout counter. Kalawao County, though not included, is hardly populated.
The islands of Kauai and Maui already enforce the ban, while the most populated island, Oahu, will start enforcing the ban in July of 2015. On the Big Island, the ban went into effect on Jan. 17, 2014 at grocery stores, restaurants and retailers. Customers can either bring their own reusable bags, or opt for paper bags.
No other U.S. states have enacted a ban on the ever-present plastic totes, but a number of cities have bans in place. The latest city to join that growing number of municipalities becoming environmentally conscious is Los Angeles, California in Jan. 2014. San Francisco and Santa Monica have bans in place, as does Portland, Ore. and Washington, D.C.
There are plastic bag bans in some cities in England, Mexico, India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Rwanda and Australia. In Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany, there is a charge or tax on plastic bags used by customers. Surprisingly, Taiwan had a ban on plastic bags for three years, but in 2006, lifted the ban.
There are critics to the banning of plastic bags, some pointing out that nationally, more plastic bags are being recycled than ever before. But in 2012, an unnamed legislative source in Washington D.C. told industry trade PlasticsNews, "The number of plastic bags being collected is very low compared to the 100 billion bags handed out in the United States each year."
In 2012, the plastic bag industry was relying on a report that said recycling of plastic bags jumped 14 percent in 2010 to 971.8 million pounds, according to a new report. This jump was the first time since 2006 the percentages had increased more than three percent.
Keith Christman, with the American Chemistry Council, in responding to the report said he was very excited, saying word was getting out to the public. “The communication is getting out that plastic bags can be recycled. A lot more bags have messages on them that say ‘bring it back,’” he said.
Executive director, Mark Murray of the Sacramento, Calif. based Californians Against Waste, pointed out that the report's figures were erroneous, actually showing recycling was a failure. “The reported growth in plastic bag recycling volume of 27 million lbs from 2009 to 2010 was completely swamped by the [Environmental Protection Agency’s] reported 220 million pound growth in plastic bag generation during the same period,” Murray said.