The post-card perfect beaches of Hawaii’s Big Island will now be safer from toxic litter and costly waste thanks to recent decisions by the Hawaii County Council and Mayor Billy Kenoi.
In late December, the Council approved a bill that would restrict retailers from offering plastic bags at the checkout counter. And just over a week ago, the bill was signed into law by Kenoi. In doing so, the Big Island joined its neighbors Kauai and Maui which already have similar bans in place. However, support for the bill was far from unanimous.
A frequent surfer, Kenoi acknowledged that plastic bags can become unwelcome litter and also threaten marine mammals that mistake them for food. However, Kenoi said he also agrees with bill opponents who feel charging for plastic bags, education and voluntary recycling are better solutions than government mandates for addressing littering issues.
“Yet, this bill holds the promise of keeping our island clean, healthy and safe, and we need to finish the job,” Kenoi told lawmakers.
Hawaii County’s law affects only plastic shopping bags distributed at the checkout counter; garbage bags, those available in the produce section of supermarkets and packaging material are excluded.
For those who feel that the bill is unfair, or will negatively impact retailers in extremely wet areas like Hilo, there will be plenty of time to create an adaptation plan, as the law won’t take effect until Jan. 17, 2013. After that, businesses may sell plastic shopping bags for an additional year without violating the law.
Image Credit: Flickr – velkr0