Bill seeks change in Oahu's plastic bag ban

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HONOLULU (AP) — A Honolulu City Council member wants to change Oahu's upcoming plastic bag ban by removing an exemption for plastic bags labeled as biodegradable.

The measure by Breene Harimoto follows concerns by the city Department of Environmental Services about how to monitor and enforce the exemption, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday (http://is.gd/FYLL3V ).

"They would have to, in essence, certify that bags being used are biodegradable, and what they discovered is that there really is no standard as to what is biodegradable," Harimoto said.

The original ban passed in April 2012 was scheduled for a start date of July 1, 2015. It prohibits the distribution of plastic bags by retailers, except those labeled biodegradable.

Council chairman Ernie Martin, among the sponsors of the original bill, said he opposes the proposed change, which would delay the ban's effective start date to Jan. 1, 2016.

"The existing law was crafted to give the department and all affected parties sufficient time to plan for the ban when it takes effect next year," Martin said in a statement. "It would be better to assess the effectiveness of the law after it has been implemented than to delay this further."

Out of Hawaii's four counties, Honolulu is the only one without a plastic bag ban in place. The counties with bans do not exempt biodegradable-label bags, Harimoto said.

A biodegradable moniker is a misnomer, said Suzanne Frazer with the group Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii.

"There's no such thing as biodegradable plastic," Frazer said. "Plastic lasts forever."

The proposed change is set to be heard for the first time Wednesday by the City Council.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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