Bag manufacturers have different take on bag ban

Published: Apr. 26, 2012 at 10:00 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 26, 2012 at 11:54 PM HST
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David Hong
David Hong

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The plastic bag ban is still three years from starting, if Mayor Peter Carlisle approves it, but the movement toward biodegradable bags has already begun.

Biodegradable plastic shopping bags are about 10 percent of the Island Plastic Bags business but it is expected to be more than double that if and when the ban takes effect July 2015.

Island Plastic Bags makes two million shopping bags a month but five years ago the owner started making the move to biodegradable.

"We made our money in plastics. We're happy where we are. But we realize the future is biodegradable bags," said David Hong, Island Plastic Bags Inc. Owner and President.  "Everybody wants to be green.  Everybody wants to do the right thing, the problem is the cost involved."

With cost in mind he started researching.  Hong now offers three biodegradable bags.  He makes and ECM Biofilm bag which is three cents a bag and breaks down in 9 months to 5 years.  He also distributes a bag made of tapioca which is four and a half cents and breaks down in 12 weeks.  His newest bag is called the PO2 which is made out of carbon dioxide.  It's seven cents and breaks down in 90 days.

"It's like the secret sauce right, but the main ingredient is carbon dioxide. If someone would say to me five years ago I wouldn't believe them," said Hong. "We have three years before the ban takes effect. As we go along there are going to be more scientific breakthroughs."

All his bags have passed environmental tests and he says he's happy to the results with anyone who is interested.  The biodegradable bags are still cheaper than paper bags which are about 11 cents a bag.

However the bag ban may have casualties as well.  HI-V Plastic Bag Manufacturing sells plastic bags to Times Supermarkets and Don Quijote stores.  It's 40 percent of their business so the ban will suffocate the company.

"This one really hurts us. It's just directly cutting our throat. We just hang in there until the three years come. We don't know what to do. Maybe we just close the plant down. I don't know," said Vincent Lum, HI-V Plastic Bag Manufacturing President. "What can we do now? Hopefully the lawmakers will change their mind and have some kind of mercy for us."

As for Island Plastic Bags, Hong admits the true motivation for going green was listening.

"My wife is a vegan, a raw food chef, so she's been pushing me in this direction for a long long time. So the boss is actually my wife. That's a true story," said Hong.

It pays off to listen to the wife.

He also says like any new technology it's expensive to start but in time he predicts biodegradable bags will become even more affordable.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.