Maui’s Plastic Bag Debate

Nov 17, 2016

Credit Wikipedia Commons

Plastic bags have been a point of political contention around the islands for years. In May of 2015, O'ahu became the last island to ban the use of most plastic bags at store check-out counters. This week, the Maui County Council considered toughening its ban on plastic bags—and extending it to other items that wind up in landfills. We get more on the story from Colleen Uechi of The Maui News.

Back in 2011, Maui County was the first in the state to ban single-use plastic bags.  But there was an exception-businesses were allowed to use a thicker type of reusable plastic bag.  County Council Member Elle Cochran says that's still harmful to the environment….and now two measures before the Council would end that exception-and also ban disposable foam food containers.

For residents, getting rid of plastic bags and foam food containers would help clear the beaches of materials that take a long time to break down and pose a threat to marine life. One leader of a local nonprofit said she wouldn't mind paying a little extra for a biodegradable plate lunch container if it would help the environment in the long run.

Others fear that banning these materials would hurt the businesses that produce them. A representative from one local company that makes these disposable containers said the heavier materials that go into compostable containers are more expensive to ship. She says the problem is not with the products, but with people littering.

Hawaii County considered a similar ban on foam containers earlier this year, but the bill failed after council members deadlocked in a 4-4 vote.  On Maui, Council members have deferred a decision…but Cochran hopes to revisit the issue before the end of the year.