Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Pair of measures would mean fees for disposable bags

Two groups support legislative proposals to promote the use of reusable sacks

By Gary T. Kubota


The Surfrider Foundation Hawaii and a retail merchants group are supporting bills intended to encourage consumers to bring reusable shopping bags to the store.

Senate Bill 1363 would impose a fee of 25 cents for a non-reusable bag, including plastic and paper bags dispensed at stores. House Bill 998 calls for a 10 cent charge.

Foundation coordinator Stuart Coleman said in an interview Friday that similar legislation that took effect in Washington, D.C., charging 5 cents a bag resulted in an 80 percent reduction in the use of paper and plastic bags.

Senate Bill 1363 and House Bill 998 are both scheduled for decision-making by joint committees tomorrow and Tuesday respectively.

The Senate committees on Energy and Environment and on Economic Development and Technology are scheduled to make a decision on SB 1363 at 1:15 p.m. tomorrow at Conference Room 16.

The House committees on Energy and Environmental Protection and on Economic Revitalization and Business are expected to make a decision on HB 998 at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday at Conference Room 325.

Kauai and Maui counties have adopted a ban on the use of plastic bags, and the Big Island and Oahu are reviewing bills.

Some critics say the ordinances on Maui and Kauai have shifted consumers' use to disposable paper bags, an alternative that is more costly and bad for the environment.

Carol Pregill, president of the 200-member Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said in an interview Friday that her group wants to eliminate single-use bags whenever practical and to encourage consumers to bring reusable bags.

"It's not always feasible for all products," she said.

Pregill said she favors a list of exemptions for wrapping fish, meat and bulk produce to avoid cross-contamination of food products.

Pregill's group wants bills enacted statewide that would preempt ordinances in Maui and Kauai counties.

Pregill said a statewide law would be less confusing for consumers and allow businesses to apply economies of scale when making purchases.

But Coleman's Foundation supports keeping the Maui and Kauai ordinances in place and applying the law to other counties, including Honolulu.

"We want to respect their decision," Coleman said.

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