Plastic bag ban mulled

EPA: Over 380 billion plastic bags used in US

A blanket ban on single-use plastic bags is brewing at the Legislature, with the introduction of a bill that would ban the importation, production, distribution, and use of plastic bags in the CNMI.

Sen. Vinson Sablan’s (Ind-Saipan) Senate Bill 21-37 seeks to follow the example of Palau, Hawaii, Guam, Yap, Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Marshall Islands in responding to concerns surrounding the use of plastic and their effects on the environment.

Sablan’s S.B. 21-37 seeks to prohibit the importation and production of single-use plastic bags in the CNMI four months after the bill’s enactment.

As defined in the bill, single-use plastic bags are bags designed for one-time use, most often in grocery stores and other convenience shops. The legislation recognizes plastic bags less than 3 mils, or less than 0.003 inches in thickness as single-use.

The legislation authorizes the Division of Customs to inspect shipments and seize single-use plastic bags and enforce penalties that range from $250 minimum per day from the date of the issuance of the notice of violation for the first offense.

A second violation comes with a fine of $500 and the third violation a fine of $1,000. Subsequent violations impose a minimum fine of $1,000 but less than $1,500.

One year after the enactment of S.B. 21-37, all businesses in the Commonwealth are prohibited from providing single-use plastic checkout bags to customers for the purpose of transporting groceries or other goods.

According to the legislation, businesses are free to use either reusable bags or paper bags for customers transporting groceries.

“Bags that are made from plastic that are washable, specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse, and are at least 0.3 mils [0.003 inches] thick, will be acceptable as a reusable bag,” the legislation noted. “…As temporary residents of this Earth, and, in particular, stewards of this Commonwealth, we have a duty to preserve our resources, and to act as guardians for Mother Earth for the benefit of our children and their children.”

“…An estimated 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. This amounts to over one million bags per minute. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks, and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year,” the legislation added.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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