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U.S. EPA applauds Maui and Kauai for decision to ban plastic shopping bags

Release Date: 01/27/2011
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(01/27/11) HONOLULU – The US Environmental Protection Agency today applauds the Mayors, County Councils and residents of Maui and Kauai counties in Hawaii for enacting restrictions banning plastic shopping bags – reducing their waste and protecting the environment in a single action.

“The leadership shown by the Counties of Maui and Kauai in banning these bags will help keep their environments pristine,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This will not only decrease the amount of plastic in the counties, but it will reduce the number of bags that end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an enormous area of floating plastic waste.”

The County of Maui and Kauai join American Samoa in banning plastic shopping bags in the Pacific area. Other cities like San Francisco, Portland, San Jose, Santa Monica, Marin County, South Padre, Texas, coastal North Carolina, and other California cities like Malibu, Palo Alto, Fairfax, and Los Angeles County have bag bans. California cities of Fremont, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Trent Hills, Long Beach, Santa Clara County, and other areas such as New York City, Seattle, Boston, Phoenix, Arkansas, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut, and Maryland are also considering legislation to ban plastic bags. Other countries that have banned free plastic bags include China, Bangladesh, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Ireland, and Taiwan.

The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ refers to two areas of floating plastic waste in the North Pacific that have been identified by NOAA and many other organizations. These areas are located in both the eastern and western Pacific and are composed of marine debris. The main type of garbage in the patch is plastic litter along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets. Much of the debris is very small bits of floating plastic debris broken down through photodegradation, and surveys estimate that there may be as much as six times more plastic than plankton in parts of the garbage patch. The County of Maui and Kauai’s action will help protect many species of Pacific marine and bird life, which attempt to consume the plastic debris after mistaking it for food.
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