comscore Fees aimed at helping environment should be administered better | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | Island Voices

Fees aimed at helping environment should be administered better


A number of environmental groups have come out in support of one or more of the proposed bills placing a fee on single-use shopping bags in an effort to reduce waste and promote the use of reuseable bags.

While I, too, am disappointed with the mindless transfer to the use of paper bags, the current ban on Maui and Kauai is barely a month old, and little effort has been made at education and awareness.

Yes, fees can work, but at what cost? The administration of the fee collection and accounting for both the original glass container Advance Disposal Fee and the existing Deposit/Redemption (HI-5) programs were dumped on the Solid Waste Office’s Recycling program with little or no additional resources, significantly affecting their ability to carry out their primary mission of promoting and supporting waste diversion efforts.

In addition, if we are going to charge a fee based on the environmental impacts of a consumer item, then a significant portion of the funds collected should target the environmental issues: recycling, litter control and marine pollution. And let’s this make this tax simple, a flat tax, assessed up front, on all single-use/point-of-sale bags and collected by the Finance /Taxation office, not the Department of Health.

I seriously question statements regarding the overall impacts of paper versus plastic. Paper bags are manufactured from a renewable resource, and while harvesting tree farms and making paper certainly has its environmental impacts, they pale along side of massive oil spills, and the health impact of refineries on their communities.

And as much as I would love everyone to switch to reuseables, paper bags readily break down in the environment — almost immediately in water — and pose none of the impact of plastic on our marine environment. Have you ever heard of paper bags in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Also, paper bags are readily accepted in almost all recycle programs, while plastic bags must be managed, at a significant expense, outside of community collection efforts. And paper bags contain a significant amount of recycled content. Recycled plastic bags are primarily made into secondary products with more petroleum required for new bags.

Another issue is how enactment of a bag fee will fit into our overall Zero Waste strategy regarding excess consumer plastic products. Styrofoam food service packaging, plastic water bottles, excess plastic packaging of consumer products — do we have a single, simple, uniform solution or a shotgun approach with a maze of different fees, tracking and enforcement requirements?

Please, if we must have a fee, include language directing a significant portion of the funds collected toward recycling, litter control and marine environmental cleanup programs.

Also, ensure that adequate resources are given the program responsible for management of the new law.


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