Plastic bag ban legislation passes

The bill banning plastic and paper bags for retailers and wholesalers on Guam was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor. (PNC file photo)

Despite pushback from the business community, the bill banning plastic and paper bags for retailers and wholesalers on Guam passed with flying colors in the legislature Thursday night.

Under Bill 373, non-biodegradable plastic bags will be banned as of January 1st — just a couple of weeks away.

The ban on biodegradable plastic bags has been extended until the end of next year although one of the bill’s authors, Senator Regine Biscoe-Lee, says Guam doesn’t have the proper systems to break down biodegradable bags so they’re just as bad as regular plastic.

Paper bags will also be phased out the following year.

Biscoe-Lee says she sympathizes with the business community but that the original bill passed nearly two years ago and the industry — while faced with challenges for COVID — had a long runway to get ready for this change.

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“We want to be reasonable. We don’t want to be the cause of additional small businesses going under, that’s totally not the reasoning behind this bill. But, we also have to keep in mind that we’ve already borrowed $30 million this term to expand our landfill and when we look at the different types of trash being thrown away, the majority of it is plastic and a majority of that plastic – 60% – is plastic bags,” Biscoe-Lee said.

She added: “We want to eliminate also our reliance on these single-use items and it really is just a lifestyle change.”

The Chamber of Commerce requested the Legislature to consider a year’s delay in the implementation of the bill. According to the Chamber, this was needed as businesses did not have the consumer base during the COVID shutdowns to properly use up all the plastic bags they had.

In the end, lawmakers did not falter and passed the bill, 12-to-2