Plastic bag tax supporters hold out hope for approval

By Moanike'ala Nabarro
Published On: Apr 19 2012 02:00:00 PM HST

Supporters of a bill that would impose a fee on plastic bags made a public plead for the legislature to pass the measure. Consumers would have to pay 10 cents per bag if the bill becomes law in its current form.

HONOLULU -

Governor Neil Abercrombie's wife, Nancie Caraway spoke openly about the benefits of taxing plastic bags.

"It allows us to turn a negative, which is harmful use of plastic bags to our beloved Aina, into a positive," Caraway said.

It was a rare public show of support by a governor's spouse for legislation, but Hawaii's first lady said it just makes sense.

"Well, I'm a political scientist and I'm a citizen and I've been involved in lots of issues for many, many years, so this is nothing unusual," Caraway said.

Caraway stood among supporters urging legislators to pass the bill they said is a win-win with collected fees funding watershed protection.

Supporters said a 5-cent paper/plastic bag fee implemented in Washington, D.C. flipped the way consumers' viewed usage there.

"They saw an 80-percent reduction of bags within the first year, and most retailers articulate that it was broadly supported by the public," said Robert Harris, executive director of Sierra Club Hawaii.

Senator David Ige is co-chair of the bill and said he hopes the bill will be considered by House and Senate negotiators.

"The Senate has appointed conferees and waiting for the House to appoint conferees, and hopefully then we'll be able to schedule a conference meeting so that we can resolve the differences," Sen. Ige said.

Supporters said as far as they know, there's no visible opposition blocking the bill's passage.

"We're wondering who is this invisible opposition and why aren't they standing up?" asked Joy Leilei Shih from the Bamboo Bike Project.

Kauai and Maui counties already ban plastic bags from retail outlets.  A ban on the Big Island kicks in next year.

If the state enacts this new law, residents on the neighbor islands would pay a fee for paper bags.

Oahu residents would pay a fee for both paper and plastic bags.

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