Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SUFFOCATED

SUFFOCATED: One thing we might not have made clear in our three prior posts on apparent efforts to undermine Kaua`i Ordinance 885 restricting the use of plastic grocery bags is that there is a two prong test for acceptable “plastic” bags.

The ordinance allows only "biodegradable bags" which according to the ordinance “means a bag that (1) contains no polymers derived from fossil fuels; and (2) is intended for single use and will decompose in a natural setting at a rate comparable to other biodegradable materials such as paper, leaves, and food waste.”

The second is important too because any bags that merchants use must be certified to meet both standards.

As we said Monday researcher Brad Parsons has been diligently doing the job the Department of Public Works should be doing and will present the following testimony today. Keep the two prong test in mind as you read what he found out. See ya on the other side.

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Aloha Councilmembers:

Over the past week, since the last Council meeting regarding Ordinance 885, I have spent probably 50 hours researching the plastic bag issue. I may not get a chance to say or write everything I found, but here are a few notes, and I will try to write up everything I found after today and submit it to you.

First, after almost literally scouring the planet, I did NOT definitively find a poly bag for sale on the market that meets both of Ordinance 885's requirements, those being that it have no fossil fuel polymers (equivalent to ASTM D 6866 industry standard) and that it be compostable at a natural rate as with paper, leaves, and food waste (equivalent to ASTM D 6400 industry standard). I also heavily research the two industry standards, NOT national standards referenced in the prior sentence. The compostable standard ASTM D 6400 is what is used only in San Francisco, California state law, and Minnesota state law for poly bags. It is used in those two states only regarding poly bags. There are many bags on the market that meet the compostable standard ASTM D 6400. The limiting industry standard of the two is ASTM D 6866 the renewable content standard. Of the 19 other jurisdictions in the U.S. with some form of a poly bag ban, I did not find one other jurisdiction that specifically mentions a legal standard of allowing poly bags with no fossil fuel content.

What I did find is at least two bioresins out there that are 100% biobased (that is the term under D 6866 for a polymer that has no fossil fuel content) made by 1) The company Braskem out of Brazil made 100% from sugarcane called green polyethylene. Braskem is in a JV with Proctor & Gamble to distribute products from this, and 2) the company NatureWorks LLC out of Minnesota who's Ingeo biopolymer is 100% biobased from corn. NatureWorks did refer me to two bag makers that they supply. Of those two, there is the possibility that one of them, Indaco of Canada makes a bag called "Bag to Nature" (about 11 cents per bag) that MIGHT be compostable AND 100% biobased. Indaco starts with a bioresin from NatureWorks LLC that is 100% biobased, but if they add their own polymers that have fossil fuel content, then even their "Bag to Nature" would not be 100% biobased and not meet Ordinance 885's unique requirements. I did also come across one other interesting poly bag maker in Minnesota, in Northern Technologies Natur-Tec "Natur-Bag". The "Natur-Bag" is compostable but not 100% biobased, but I did have a chance to have a long conversation with a Rick Lombardo of Northern Tech this morning that was very helpful and will pass on his contact information in my full written testimony to you in the next few days. Lastly, I did come across 2 Chinese companies who's claims are not tested, but which may have a bioresin approaching 100% biobased by Wuhan Huali in a corn-based resin, and Tianan Biologic Material Co. in a bioresin apparently derived from bacteria.

In the course of this search I did also make contact with the only Biodegradable Products Institute approved ASTM D 6400 testing lab on the West Coast, Soil Control Lab, and exchanged a number of useful emails with their lab director Mike Galloway and also made contact and exchanged email and phone conversations with the only lab in the U.S., Beta Analytic, based out of Florida and Europe, that does systematic testing for ASTM D 6866. The useful feedback and documentation they have provided to me, I will include in my next writeup on this.

There are a number of other details that I will try to mention in my testimony or include in my follow-up writing.

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Today’s council meeting should be a real doozie as the DPW will be forced to explain why they spent a few days short of a full year futzing around and coming up with nothing while Brad spent a few days doing their job for them.

But one thing we will probably not find out today is exactly who approached County Attorney Al Castillo to try to go behind closed doors apparently to sabotage the ordinance’s implementation.

Castillo has refused to say who it was but we sure would like to ask if might have been a certain councilmember who has recused himself due to a conflict of interest due to his employment with Big Save Markets,.

A number of readers have suggested and even alleged this is true but none could provide definitive evidence as to whether Mr. Kawakami used his position as a councilperson to influence the county attorney to put a monkey wrench in the works- which might be seen as a use his position to further a private interest in violation of the county’s code of ethics.

We’re certainly not saying we have any knowledge that it was Kawakami who brought the matter to Castillo’s attention but we’d love to have the both of them answer the question as to whether they have discussed implementation of the bill, especially given Kawakami’s recusal on the matter.

3 comments:

Brad Parsons said...

Later Wed. I did get back word from Indaco of Canada that their "Bag to Nature" is not 100% biobased.

So, long story short, there is no 100% biobased bag on the market right now, although there are at least 2 base bioresins in the world that are 100% biobased with no fossil fuel carbon content.

There's a lot of other stuff I did not include in that one page letter to Council.

Just so people know, I still think Ordinance 885 is good. People can always use their own reusable bags and where necessary merchants can provide paper bags, and maybe current technology will one day soon develop a biobased bag that will qualify for the unique combined standards in Ordinance 885.

Brad

P.S. I don't know who told Al Castillo that there is no poly bag out there that qualifies under Ordinance 885, but that is true. My only concern now is the formal hearing date on the day of implementation. Quite frankly that seems opaque to say the least.

Brad Parsons said...

One other point for the retail merchants. Maui and Kauai will effectively have the same requirements come January, namely that poly bags will not be allowed. Franchises that are on both islands should work with home offices to combine their purchasing of allowable bags (paper) so as to minimize their costs and combine their purchasing logistics. For all retailers, they should start planning it now. They have about 3 months which is just enough time.

One other point, retailers should look at this as an opportunity to increase revenue at least for the first year with reusable bag sales and to reduce expenses from the giving away of plastic carry out bags in the past. It's true that paper is a little more expense than plastic, but merchants should take every opportunity to minimize that, keeping in mind that paper does at least biodegrade and regular plastic does not.

This is doable and it is an important step in reducing the non-biodegradable flow into these island landfills.

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