Plastic Prohibition Seen Easing Consumption Habit
The world famous Kalalau Trail on the Napali Coast of Kauai, Hawaii, USA. Image courtesy of Anaha Lion
In last month’s newsletter we expressed our concern about the U.S. state of Hawaii’s de facto ban on plastic bags & how it was not earth-friendly. This is because a purely prohibition approach to plastic bags forces people to choose replacements, and most choices likely will be cost-based leading to the replacement of plastic with cheap reusable bags that are even more harmful.
A Hawaiian reader, Anaha Lion, kindly let us know that there are other effects of banning plastic that are more subtle & over time have encouraged him about the desirability of the ban. He also explained how his local government augmented the ban with measures that did bring positive results.
We’ve edited his comments for brevity, and are grateful for the opportunity to share them with our readers around the globe:
"When the ban went into effect (here two years ago), the County of Kauai, distributed free reusable bags made of 100% recycled and recyclable materials to anyone who wanted them at various outlets including grocery stores. The bags are very durable and large, so they can hold a lot of groceries…. They have very comfortable and durable handles…. I have carried up to 25 lbs. in them numerous times. I still have and continuously use my bags … two years old now and in perfect condition. Many other people (also are) carrying and using them.
I have seen a direct change in how people have gotten creative and conscious about how they carry groceries. More people have begun to carry baskets made from natural materials manufactured in … Third World countries. Others carry bags made of other recycled/recyclable materials such as the Chico Bag, which I also have as a backup.
Many of the stores have also gotten on board…. Instead of offering recycled paper bags, they pack groceries in cardboard boxes in which the products were originally shipped or packaged. These boxes are mostly compostable, which is good for an agricultural island like ours, and they are also recyclable. Many of the larger chain stores offer paper bags made of recycled paper and those too are recyclable.
I have observed a noticeable difference in the amount of trash on our island just from the reduction and elimination of plastic bag use. It may take humanity some time to get used to life without plastic bags, to be more conscious about recycling, and to develop and embrace clean, effective, reusable alternatives, but I believe we are on the right track here on the little island of Kauai and I have hope for the rest of humanity!
Until then I still support Nature Bag and other conscious organizations doing good work and I have also turned on others to (your) website!"
In seeking permission to publish Anaha Lion’s response, Nature Bag Khmu/Lao Poverty Reduction Project co-founder/volunteer Bill suggested to him that Kauai appeared to be a very special place, not typical, and he replied:
"I couldn't agree with you more! Kauai, being an island in the middle of the Pacific, poses unique problems as well as unique opportunities. We are an island of about 70,000 people, with one main road and one landfill. The current landfill is due to fill to capacity within the next 3 years. Which means other solutions will need to be in place by then. One of the solutions, of course, is a more expanded recycling program as well as more education and awareness around the issue.
Even though we face these problems, if we can solve them in cost effective and successful ways we have the opportunity to be a model for other communities. So much of this depends upon each individual doing their part by living the words: reduce, reuse and recycle. For my part, I choose to live simply, recycle everything I can, compost everything that is biodegradable, and only throw away that which I need to. On average, it takes about one month to a month and a half for me to fill an average size trash can. The trash collectors have very little work to do at my house! And the truth is I do it with very little effort! I hope more people will choose to live sustainably and consciously both here on Kauai and around the world!"
Vivian H Ramirez