Rep. Vinnie F. Sablan (Ind-Saipan) has re-introduced his legislation that would ban the use of plastic checkout bags in the CNMI.
He first introduced in the 19th Legislature House Bill 19-27, where the House Natural Resources Committee, then chaired by Rep. Edwin P. Aldan (R-Tinian), recommended its passage but in the form of House Substitute 1.
Based on the then-standing committee report 19-33, the CNMI government would incur additional expenses if HB 19-27 becomes law as it would give several government agencies the power to implement the legislation.
“However, the overall environmental and economic benefits that could be realized from the enactment of HB 19-27, HS1 will far outweigh such additional costs that may arise,” according to the report.
Sablan did not make any significant changes on his re-introduced bill, this time as House Bill 20-1, since it is known that plastic bags are non-compostable and pollutes the environment and threatens animal life on land and sea.
His proposed legislation wants to promote the use of reusable bags, recycled paper, biodegradable or compostable plastic designed for reuse, and reusable bags made of washable materials. Violation carries a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 if HB 20-11 becomes a law.
“In addition to the harm that these plastic bags present, the manufacturing of these bags requires the needless consumption of the Earth’s ever-depleting non-renewable resources,” wrote Sablan on the bill.
“And while the economic and social costs associated with plastic bags are high, attempts to mitigate the harms through recycling have proven influential because the present price of recycling is prohibitively higher.”
Being stewards of the CNMI’s surroundings and Earth’s temporary residents gives people the duty of preserving its resources and act as the environment’s guardians for future generations, Sablan said.
An estimated one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that Americans use more than 380 billion plastic bags, sacks, and wraps each year, while the Wall Street Journal said the U.S. consumes 100 billion single-used plastic shopping bags annually that costs retailers $4 billion.
Australia, on the other hand, uses an estimated close to 8 billion plastic bags a year or 326 per person, where more than 49 million end up as litter annually, while Chinese-Taipei utilizes a yearly number of 20 billion or 900 bags per person.
Studies show that plastic bags that end up in the ocean harm animals like sea turtles, whales, and other marine creatures as they often mistake it for food. Plastic bags also photodegrade or break down to smaller toxic pieces instead of being biodegradable, which mean capable of decomposing.