Plastic bags have come under fire as millions of the disposable bags end up in landfills, as litter and all too often in the world’s waterways. Plastic bags take hundreds of years to decompose and while doing so they expose the environment to a number of chemicals. Plastic bags, alongside other plastic products like containers and bottles, are a major cause of the floating plastic islands plaguing the world’s oceans.
Islands of trash are becoming commonplace in the world’s oceans and are especially known in the Pacific. The great Pacific garbage patch, as many have come to call it, continues to grow as plastics enter the world’s waterways. According to recent a recent study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography there is 100 times more plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean now than there was just in the 1970s.
A growing number of cities and counties are enacting plastic bag ban laws in order to reduce pollution and decrease the impact on the environment. The first city to do so was San Francisco back in 2007. Since then Malibu, Palo Alto and other cities have been added to the list. Some cities also choose to place a surcharge on plastic and paper bags in order to reduce the use, much like in Washington, D.C..
The aforementioned issue with growing plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean makes the recent announcement by the U.S. Pacific state of Hawaii to announce the banning of plastic bags even more fitting. Honolulu County recently announced a plastic bag ban joining the other counties of Hawaii which already have passed such bans. The ban will be enacted on July 1, 2015 when all non-biodegradable plastic bags will be banned. Paper bags will also have limitations once the ban is enacted, with stores requiring to use bags made with at least forty percent recycled materials.
Of the three other counties already having a ban law pass, two have been enacted. The counties of Maui and Kauai currently do not allow plastic bags while the other county, Hawaii County, will have their ban enacted on January 17, 2013. In the areas already enacting bans, there has been an increase in paper bag use rather than reusable bag use. In the future the counties may consider placing a fee on paper bags.
Despite all counties having plastic bag bans and essentially having banned them from the state, the ban is not actually legislation at the state-level. Therefore no state in the U.S. has yet to ban plastic bags altogether, for now cities and counties continue to do so instead due to less political and lobbyist issues at city and county levels.