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02/17/2012 9:17 am

(AP) — A proposal to collect fees from customers who choose disposable paper and plastic shopping bags is gaining support as it works its way through Hawaii’s Legislature.

If lawmakers pass the House Bill 2260 this session, Hawaii would become the first state to enact this kind of pro-environment legislation.

The measure has been touted as a way to discourage shoppers from using single-use shopping bags by charging an extra 5 cents per bag. The average person uses 400 plastic bags each year, advocates say.

Mark Fox, Director of External Affairs for the Nature Conservancy, told a House committee Thursday that the legislation has two benefits: “It works on changing people’s behavior and encourages them to bring reusable bags. And if you’re unable to change your behavior, you can contribute to helping our watersheds.”

Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island counties have all enacted measures to limit use of plastic bags.

Melissa Pavlicek, testifying on behalf of Safeway and Times Supermarket, said plastic bag bans on Maui and Kauai have led more shoppers to ask for costly paper bags instead of bringing their own reusable totes.

The grocery chains support the bill, however, but requested the state use some of the fee to help them cover the cost of administering the program. Read the full article