Island Plastic Bags Inc. planned to double or triple its production of biodegradable plastic bags in its Halawa factory when the Oahu ban on other plastic bags kicked in next year. The business blueprint was simple.
"Increase manufacturing capacity here. Bring more local manufacturing here by making the biodegradable bags here," general manager Adrian Hong said.
But now City Councilman Breene Harimoto wants to also ban biodegradable plastic bags.
"There's no clear standards as to what is biodegradable, truly biodegradable," he said.
Hong said banning biodegradable plastic bags will cost his company growth income.
"In terms of opportunity costs, there's millions of dollars of that market that would be lost," he said.
Suzanne Frazer of marine debris awareness group B.E.A.C.H. agrees with Harimoto.
"They're made of plastic. It never goes away because the molecules are too big for microorganisms to eat through," she said.
"All it does is it breaks one piece of bag into a hundred smaller pieces," Harimoto said. "The plastic is still plastic."
Hong said the biodegradable bags his company makes do contain polyethylene, but they do break down over time. He's offering a compromise -- allow the use of compostable bags.
"There is an industry standard for compostable. It's things that can go to the composting facility and actually break down in 90 days or less," he said.
"My understanding is compostables are not strong enough to really hold heavy items," Harimoto said.
His Bill 38 puts off the bag ban until January 2016. He is being pressured to keep the start date to July 1 of next year. That wrinkle needs to be ironed out.
"There's a lot more uncertainty now because of all of this," Hong said.
Island Plastics will plead its case to the City Council tomorrow at Kapolei Hale.