On July 1, hard work and hundreds of hours spent by volunteers had paid off. Hawaii became the first state banning single-use plastic bags at store checkouts. "I'm collecting these now," said a clerk at Safeway in Hawaii just a few days before the ban took into effect. "Soon we can't have them anymore and I like reusing the plastic bags in my home." I smiled. I knew that this change, just like every change, will be accepted gradually. It's similar to when you move and still drive to your old neighborhood to run errands before finding similar places near your new home -- people will eventually accept the ban and find their alternatives purchasing reusable cotton bags and bringing them to stores. And those, who claim that they reuse plastic bags for trash, must know that doing so, the bags don't get recycled (actually less than five percent of them do get recycled) and they will still end up in a landfill or add to the ocean plastic pollution.
The advantages of plastic bag bans are endless. We'll save on costs of producing them. Turtles will no longer get caught in floating in the ocean plastic bags and birds won't fly into them. There will be no more tourists walking down Kalakaua Avenue holding ABC store plastic bags with a single item in them. This beautiful scenario seemed almost too good to be true.
This joy was overshadowed by the stores, which took advantage of the loophole in the ban and promptly introduced thicker plastic bags claiming they were reusable. However, these thicker plastic bags will make a larger damage to the environment than the ones, which are banned.
Should we count on the consciousness of the consumer, who will choose not to use the single-use plastic bags? Should we approach Walmart in a gentle way? Both Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Council Chair Ernie Martin told Hawaii News Now Monday they don't like loopholes in Oahu's new plastic bag ban and are open to toughening the law. This sounds very promising.
If you'd like to contribute to taking one step towards banning all the plastic bags from store checkout points in Hawaii, you can be heard by signing this petition. Please sign it regardless if you live in Hawaii. Let's take a step closer to a global ban of single-use plastic bags.
I hope that other states, which are getting ready to pass the single-use plastic bag ban will take notice of this loophole and draft the ban accordingly.