Hawaii Bans Plastic Bags

by Laurent Cousineau

The impact of plastic bags on our environment is no novelty, and neither is the importance of reducing our consumption of said bags.

We heard of shopping malls charging customers for each bag and we also heard of stores deploying new bio-degradable counterparts. However, is this enough?

After their use, countless plastic bags have found a new abode in our streets, landfills, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Clearly, there must be a paradigm shift in the way that products are made; they should be designed to be sustainable instead of just disposable.

As more and more people become aware of the encroachment of mankind’s contribution onto our planet, the days of the plastic bad are numbered.

An Island of Change

In Hawaii, all four of the populated counties passed legislation which would ban plastic bags at checkout counters in grocery stores, restaurants, and retailers.

This would make Hawaii the first state in the U.S. to enforce such a ban. Prior to this ban, customers would pay for plastic bags acquired.

From now on, consumers may opt for more environmentally friendly paper bags or, if they wish, can bring their own reusable bags.

The Causes

How did this law come into place? The Surfrider Foundation, an American grassroots non-profit environmental organization, claims that this success is attributable to Hawaii’s local grassroots movements.

They asserted that this state-wide ban "was not done by the state legislature, but instead by all four County Councils."

In addition, the Surfrider Foundation notes that this ban is but a first step, and that to further reduce the use of disposable products, Hawaii ought to enact a fee for paper bags.

Why Hawaii?

Why are they the first to be the heralds for change in a country where climate change mitigation is not considered a top priority?

"Being a marine state, perhaps, we are exposed more directly to the impacts of plastic pollution and the damage it does to our environment," Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club's Hawaii chapter, said in 2012. "People in Hawaii are more likely to be in the water or in the outdoors and see the modern day tumbleweed -- plastic bags -- in the environment."

More Awareness Needed

If people in Hawaii were first to impose these measures mainly because they see the damages brought forth by plastic bags firsthand, perhaps the real problem is the lack of education across the country when it comes to the environment along with other humanitarian issues.

I’ve always told people that raising awareness was crucial and this still holds true.

As this much needed ban comes into play starting on January 17, 2014, let us hope that the rest of country and the rest of the world will follow.

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