Each year an individual is responsible for about 167 single-use plastic bottles and 400 plastic bags entering landfills, according to the Surfrider Foundation.
The Surfrider Foundation
is a nonprofit, grassroots organization committed to the protection of oceans and beaches. The Oahu Chapter is promoting the Rise Above Plastics
campaign, designed to reduce the use of plastic bags and bottles on the UH Manoa campus and educate students about their harmful effects to the environment.
In March 2011, the Surfrider Foundation teamed up with the Environmental Law Program
to raise awareness about the growing problem of plastic bags. They recently hosted a campus screening of the film "Bag it
," a documentary about one man's promise to stop using plastic bags. Students of all types attended the event and were inspired by the film and its message.
Plastic bags are threatening the environment globally. It is estimated that one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year due to plastic related deaths, such as entanglement or ingestion, according to the Surfrider Foundation.
Here on Oahu, plastic bag litter is a growing problem. Stuart Coleman, the Hawaii Surfrider coordinator, described an overflowing landfill on Oahu: "one day when the winds were blowing a certain direction they counted one bag a second, 60 bags a minute, 3,600 bags an hour blowing out of a landfill down into Ko Olina and into the water and into the ocean where they are mistaken as jellyfish, they are eaten by sea turtles and other marine creatures. So when you hear that kind of thing you're like — OK that's ridiculous, that needs to stop."
The problem with plastic bags is not limited to environmental affects; the issue is also an economic one. Studies show that each plastic bag at the grocery store actually costs 17 cents in production.
Mele Coleman, a concerned student from the UH environmental law program teamed up with some of her classmates to help write two bag bills for Oahu: one to impose a cent fee on all non-reusable bags and one to ban non-biodegradable, single-use plastic bags.
"I think the fee has worked really well in D.C. and Ireland and Canada, and many other places and I think that's easier. I think we have a better chance at passing that in our economy than the ban, but if the ban would pass that would be great, but I prefer biodegradable plastics to be banned, too," said Mele Coleman at the "Bag It" screening.
The islands of Maui and Kauai have already banned the use of plastic bags. Is Oahu next? The two bills crossed over to the house in early March and were under consideration in the legislature. As of now, the bill for a 10-cent fee is the only bill still up for consideration. To track the bill's status, click here