Supporters of plastic bag fee give plastic bag lei to lawmakers

Bag fee proponents gave plastic bag "lei" to legislators.
Bag fee proponents gave plastic bag "lei" to legislators.
Guy Kaulukukui
Guy Kaulukukui

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Proponents of a bill that would place a fee on single-use shopping bags went to the state capitol Friday to show their support to legislators by giving them lei made not from flowers, but from plastic grocery bags.

Members of the Sierra Club and students from the ecology class and the Civic Engagement Club at Chaminade University were among about 30 people who made the lei, and then presented them to lawmakers.

The measure, SB 2511, doesn't ban the bags, but it would place a ten-cent fee on single-use bags, both plastic and paper. Supporters said similar measures at the city and council level on the mainland have reduced plastic bag use by as much as 80 percent. If passed, Hawaii would become the first state to have such a measure.

"These are sort of the most common consumer product in the world," said Sierra Club Hawaii Director Robert Harris. "These are almost like plastic tumbleweeds now, so we're trying to put them to a good use."

Most of the fees collected would go toward the State Department of Land and Natural Resources' watershed protection initiative.

"If consumers want to continue to use paper and plastic bags that are a detriment to the environment, they're going to put the cost of that, or the fees collected, back to preserve the environment," said Guy Kaulukukui, deputy director of the DLNR.

Retailers would be able to keep a small percentage of the fee.

Honolulu is the only county in the state that hasn't banned plastic bags. Supporters said the measure still gives consumers the choice of using plastic bags on Oahu. They said also would encourage reusable bags statewide, since the fee would also be collected for paper bags used outside Oahu.

The measure has been passed by the senate's Ways and Means Committee, and now goes to the full senate for a vote next week.

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