In Hawaii, plastic bag fee gains support

Hawaii is gaining support in having shoppers pay a 5 cent fee for disposable plastic and papir bags. On average, each person use 400 bags per year and advocates of the bill hope this will decrease the use of single-use shopping bags.

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Hawaii is proposing a bill that collects a fee from customers who choose disposable paper and plastic shopping bags, the HuffPost Green reports.

The bill, House Bill 2260, is gaining support and is working its way through Hawaii's legislature. If the bill pass the house, Hawaii will become the first state to enact this type of pro-environment legislation.

Advocates of the bill say that the average person uses 400 plastic bags per year and they’re hoping that charging 5 cents per bag will discourage people from using single-use shopping bags.They note that the bags require fossil fuels for manufacture, harm marine life when it ends up in the ocean, burden overcrowded landfills and end up as unsightly litter.

Mark Fox, the Director of External Affairs for Nature Conservancy, told the House committee on Thursday that he hopes the bill will work on changing people’s behavior and encourage them to use reusable bags. He further notes that for the ones who are unable to change their behavior it will contribute to helping the watersheds.

Sixty to 70 percent of the collected fees will go into the natural area reserve fund for watershed protection, restoration and reacquisition. Right now, only 10 percent of the watershed is protected, Guy Kaulukuki, the deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said, and it has taken 40 years to get there.

Several grocery store chains, such as Safeway and Times Supermarket, support the bill but request that the state use some of  the fee to help them cover the cost of administering the program. Carol Pergill, the president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, noted that the proposal puts a burden on consumers rather that businesses.

Stuart Coleman, from the Surfrider Foundation, told the committee that the bill is a win-win for everyone. " We've got businesses behind us. we've got government agencies. We've got environmental groups and just a whole wide array of school groups and citizens groups and such. It's very inspiring to see everything coming together."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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