Plastic Bag Ban In Hawaii

The old debate is back with a twist:

Paper or Plastic or The Planet

If you go to the grocery store on Maui or Kauai, don’t be surprised if the clerk doesn’t offer you a plastic bag at checkout.  He’s not being lazy or discourteous.  He’s following the law and saving the planet.

The “plastic bag ban”, as it’s being referred to, went into effect in Kauai and Maui counties officially on 1/1/11.

So what are the rest of us waiting for?  An island created entirely by rubbish, chiefly by plastics?  Oh wait.  We’ve already got one of those. “The Great Garbage Patch”, as it is so delightfully deemed, is a mass of mostly plastics and garbage that is estimated at twice the size of Texas.  And it’s floating around in the ocean, somewhere between Hawaii and San Francisco.

I’m ashamed to think of the damage we have done to our oceans, the marine life we have strangled with our plastics, the destruction we have caused with our carelessness.  With plastic to sea life ratios at an astounding 6:1, plastic is officially a (completely unnatural and utterly detrimental) part of our ‘aina.

We have forever altered the make up of our oceans. It seems to me that the very least we could do is address our addiction to the petroleum-packed stuff.

My recommendation is to quit, cold turkey.  Drop that plastic bag (preferably in a plastic bag recycling bin or drop off center), pick up a reusable bag for the low, low price of $.99, and pledge to never touch the toxic stuff again.

I know what some of you are going to say.

Some will say: “But I use them for trash bags.”
To that I say: Really?  You need all 300-700 plastic bags per year that every American is estimated as using?  If you recycled your paper, plastics, newspapers, glass and metals and composted things that are compostable, you might be surprised how little you will be left with to put in the trash bag.

Some will say: “The government shouldn’t be telling me how to live my life.”
To that I say:  Ok great.  If you are allowed to contaminate the oceans and kill marine life, shall your neighbor also be free to kill your pets and poison your plants?  The government wouldn’t need to tell anyone how to live their life if we were all living wisely and with respect to the land.  And by the way, not everything is about you.  This is about the planet.  And our future.

Some will say: “It’s inconvenient.”
To that I say: Is it really so difficult to bring along some reusable bags?  The 30 seconds it will take you to toss them in your car hardly qualifies as inconvenient.  You know what would be incredibly inconvenient: Losing an entire species of sea creatures or ingesting a toxin-filled fish.

Some will say: “Paper is not sturdy enough.”
To that I say:  Who said you have to use paper?  What’ve you got against a reusable bag?

Some will say: “Paper is killing trees.  Plastic is killing the ocean.  Take your pick.”
And again I say: Who said you have to use either?  What’ve you got against a reusable bag?  If you are still not ready to give up the hard stuff, you could consider biodegradable plastic bags.  Yes, there is such a thing.

Some folks at food establishments on Kauai are complaining that to-go food is breaking through the brown paper bags.  Others are voicing concerns of food-borne illnesses being transferred from reusable bags to the food.  Another claims that this ban will raise the cost of living. All of these alleged problems have logical solutions, if we’d all just take the time to consider the options, what’s at stake, and how we can actually help rather than hurt the earth.

As one restaurant owner here on Oahu put it:  “There are going to be some hiccups as there would be with anything new.  People are going to complain, they are going to say it’s an inconvenience.  But they are going to get over it and get used to it.  And it’s for the planet man!”