Hawaii County Public Hearings On Proposed Plastic Bag Ban

Hawaii County Public Hearings On Proposed Plastic Bag Ban
Farmers Market in Hilo, county seat of Hawaii county. Courtesy Wikipedia

A new bill to ban plastic bags, sponsored by Council Vice Chair Pete Hoffman, is being considered by Hawaii County Council. The Council has delayed voting on the bill until several public hearings are conducted.

Following is an article about the hearings. The article is republished by permission from the original publisher: www.HawaiiFreePress.com.

Big Isle Plastic Bag Ban Hearings to begin June 7
By News Release :: 241 Views :: Big Island News, Big Island Politics [Click to print]

Message sent to members of ConforHawaii June 4, 2011

Your help is needed to fight this latest pending County government theft of our liberties. Please join your President, Walter Moe, in testifying against the coming County ban on plastic bags this Tuesday, 7 June, at the Keaau Community Center at 5:00pm. He needs your help on this, please be there if you can ! If not, please send a letter or fax testimony.

Plastic bags that retail stores provide customers at the checkout will become illegal under a bill from Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann. Bill 17, which would not take effect for a full year after its approval, will be the subject of regional public hearings lawmakers will hold in the coming months.

June 7 at the Keaau Community Center
July 13 at the Pahoa Community Center
July 26 at the Naalehu Community Center
Aug. 25 at council's chambers in the Hawaii County Building in Hilo
Oct. 27 at the Papaaloa Gymnasium
Nov. 15 at the council room in the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kealakehe.

All the hearings are set to start at 5 p.m. After gathering public input, the council is expected to take up the bill.

Why is this a bad thing?

Let me count the ways:

1) Contempt of the people. The tyranny of a mere 5 people (a majority of the council) will decide again how EVERYONE ELSE should behave, without even the courtesy of asking our permission. At a minimum, before a handful of officials decide how we all should live the most tiny details of our lives, they should put such decisions to the vote of all the people in referendum. Not doing so reflects their arrogance and the contempt with which they view their neighbors.

2) It will increase the cost of living and make life just a little bit harder for everyone. In these severe economic times of hardship, shouldn't our government be making our lives easier and less expensive, not the other way round?

3) There is NO scientific logic to banning plastic bags that will survive an honest appraisal.

a) Paper bags cost 10x more than plastic, weigh 6 x more (ie: more expensive to transport) , take up 10 x the volume (more expensive to store and more space in landfills), use 50 x more water in their production than plastic, and produce 3 x the CO2 during their production (Multiple sources). Plastic bags use 40% less energy to produce and generate 80% less solid waste than paper, according to United States EPA .

b) Plastic bags are 200 times less damaging to the climate than cotton hold-alls (Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags, by Dr Chris Edwards and Jonna Meyhoff, British Environment Agency, 2007)

c) There is NO scientific basis for claiming plastic bags are a significant ocean contaminant. The so called "Pacific Garbage Patch" was sampled by transit by Oregon State marine scientists, and NO plastic bags were either seen or recovered. The total plastic skimmed barely filled the bottom of a coffee cup, and consisted of fine particulates none of which were shown to be plastic bag origin. The "Pacific Garbage Patch" is an exaggerated myth, with no scientific credible and confirmed data. Angelicque “Angel” White, an assistant professor of oceanography at Oregon State compares the amount of plastic found to the amount of water in which it was found: “If we were to filter the surface area of the ocean equivalent to a football field in waters having the highest concentration (of plastic) ever recorded,” she said, “the amount of plastic recovered would not even extend to the 1-inch line.”

d) There is NO credible and confirmed scientific data that plastic bags are a significant threat to marine wild life. The widely circulated photo of a turtle with a bag in its mouth is not science, and could even have been staged. This is not a sufficient basis to cause a change in an entire society's actions. Severe actions require severe proof to be justified. A London Times article has exposed as a myth the claim that large numbers of marine mammals and seabirds are dying from ingesting plastic bags. In a report by the US National Ocean Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the authors state (at page 9): "There are very few, if any, published records of small plastics as the direct cause of mortality in sea turtles." David Laist, a senior policy analyst with the federal Marine Mammal Commission, has stated: "In their eagerness to make their case [against plastic bags], some of the environmental groups make up claims that are not really supportable."

e) plastic bags are NOT the most prominent source of litter on our island. A recent litter retrieval project of our shoreline was reported to show that the #1 litter was cigarette butts, followed by paper bags, paper cups, and paper in general. Plastic bags were well down the list. The San Francisco Department of the Environment litter audit conducted before plastic bags were banned in that city showed that plastic retail bags were 0.6% of all litter. The Florida figure is 0.72%. The Toronto figure is 0.13% (see page 35 of Toronto study).

f) Plastic bags blowing around the land fill is not a sufficient reason to make the entire island change their preferred behavior, unless the people vote on such. Litter at the land fill is what is expected at a landfill.

g) Reusable shopping bags unless washed daily and not allowed to touch the ground will harbor unsafe levels of bacteria and are a heath hazard compared to clean single use plastic bags. Placing such bags on grocery checkout counters can transmit the bacteria to the next customer's food

h) plastic bags have many more practical uses than paper, as they are water tight, lighter, durable, stronger and more likely to be re-used.

4) After they are successful in banning plastic bags, they won't stop there. A recent local news article describes a push in Seattle to ban paper coffee cups and require reusable cups. Where does this madness stop?

Photo: Hawaii Island topographic map-fr

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