Monday, March 22, 2010

Hawai'i Bag-Fee Update & Action Alert!

This update is from Surfrider's Hawai'ian Islands Field Coordinator, Stuart H. coleman - with an Action Alert opportunity in the fourth paragraph below to contact a local HI representative with your opinion:

"After talking with folks at the Capitol, I've learned that this bill has a lot of momentum and a good chance of passing this session. Robert Harris from Sierra and I talked this morning (see his thoughts below), and we both agree that we should continue to support this bill. But we should also ask that the amendment to supersede the bans on Kauai and Maui be dropped.

SB2559 is a good bill and would make Hawaii the first state in the country to impose a fee on plastic and paper bags (which are equally bad for the environment). Using a similar fee, Ireland reduced plastic bag use by 90% in one year, and the recent $.05 fee in DC has already reduced use by 60% in the first couple of months. So we know the program works and encourages people to bring reusable bags, reducing the amount of plastic and paper bag pollution.

Given the political reality that it would be near impossible to pass a ban on Oahu or across the state, I would encourage folks to support SB2559 because it will greatly reduce the proliferation of single-use plastic and paper bags across the Hawaiian Islands. In this economy, a $.05 fee is all we can afford right now, but legislators may be able to raise it as we begin to phase out the use of plastic and paper bags.

So please call or email Rep. Marcus Oshiro (808-586-6200, and ask him to give SB2559 a final hearing in the Finance Committee. Also, contact your legislators and ask them to drop the amendment (HRS342 H-E) to preempt the county bans on Kauai and Maui. Mahalo for all your hard work and support this year!

Aloha, Stuart

PS I spoke with Gordon, the Chapter Chair on Kauai, and he was obviously disappointed to hear about the preemption of the ban they worked so hard to pass. But he also acknowledged that this fee bill would be better for the state as a whole and was willing to support it. Here's an excerpt from Robert's email to the folks who helped pass the ban on Kauai:

I understand your frustration. Iʻm rather upset to see the late addition of the preemption language, particularly after there was pretty firm opposition to it by the Chairs of the two subject committees.

Let me suggest a slight tweak to your message. I believe it would be a mistake to question whether a fee would get people to change their behavior. There is evidence proving the point. For example, Ireland saw a 90% reduction in use of plastic bags. DC saw a 60% reduction within the first month of enacting their bill. For some reason, people will do a lot to avoid losing a nickel out of their pocket, even though they wouldnʻt get out their chair if you offered to pay them a nickel (there is a social psychology explanation for this phenomena, but I wonʻt pretend to understand it).

Right now a number of groups are trying to figure out the scale question. Assuming even a very low 60% reduction across a population of 1.3 million, thatʻs still comparably a lot more paper and plastic bags eliminated in comparison to a ban on only plastics on Kauai and Maui."