by Andrew Walden
The Hawai`i County Council could do something about litter, like reorganizing the Dep’t of Environmental Management and the Department of Recreation but instead they have decided to ban anything that litterbugs might ever throw away carelessly. First it was cigarettes, now it is plastic bags. Perhaps someone should tell them that when plastic bags are banned, use of paper bags will increase. But that’s OK, on Sept. 20 voters have a chance to “throw away” the Council.
The plastic bag ban has a certain lucrative logic to it. It turns out that plastic bags gum up plastic recycling machines and reduce the resale value of bundled used plastics. So what is the solution? Improve the recycling machines so they don’t become gummed up? No. Instead recycling companies are using their clout with City and County governments all over the world to impose plastic bag bans. They will inconvenience the public rather than improve their technology.
Waste-to energy plants don’t have a problem with plastic bags. So a council decision to ban plastic bags is just another step towards rejecting waste-to-energy, which is a more efficient method of recycling than bundling up paper and plastic and shipping it to the mainland.
The Department of Environmental Management, larded with people who have ties to the county-subsidized physical recycling industry, destroyed waste-to-energy by writing an RFP which left the field open only to Wheelabrator. The physical recyclers are slowly and methodically structuring the marketplace to guarantee themselves a monopoly. Meanwhile, as County employees prepare for cutbacks, the recyclers are raking in millions of taxpayer dollars for the operation of less efficient recycling schemes when waste-to-energy plants can actually be a revenue source for the county.
Meanwhile as a public service we would like to point out the General Sherman Sequoia, in Yosemite National Park isn’t much good for lumber, but it makes great pulp for paper mills. It is the world’s largest living thing with a height of 275 feet, a base circumference of 105 feet and most importantly it contains 600,120 board feet of timber–enough to produce about 6 million brown paper bags. After living a millennium or two, a single Giant Sequoia could keep Hawai`i supermarkets in brown paper for a few months.
It gets even better; at a premium price of $0.25 per board foot, thanks to the Hawai`i County Council, seven of these 2000-3000 yr old sequoias will make the owner a brown paper bag millionaire. That’s what happens to market incentives when politically-connected operators attempt to interfere on their own behalf.
For your cutting convenience, Sequoias can be found in convenient groups known as “Cathedrals”–and yes, thanks to their own short-sightedness, the tree huggers are cutting down their own religion to make a buck!