Guam lawmakers Wednesday unanimously agreed to take a big step in recognizing and reversing the island’s problem with non-biodegradable litter as they passed Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee’s Bill 268, “Choose to Reuse: Muñgnga Ma Ayek I Plastek.” Senators voted 14-0 to ban the distribution of plastic carryout bags in two years, an initiative that mirrors bans already passed in three other U.S. territories, the neighboring islands of Palau, the Marshall Islands, Yap and Fiji as well as a growing list of states and countries.
“This is the first step of many that we need to take to address plastic waste on our island and truly act on our Inifresi pledge to prutehi yan hu difende … i aire, i hanom yan i tano’ Chamoru,” Biscoe Lee said. “By starting with one of the most commonly littered and one of the most ecologically detrimental items, we will start down a greener path for our tourism industry; our soil and marine life and subsequently the health of our people; but most importantly, for our children and future generations, who we want to inherit a beautiful, resilient island.”
Based on testimony received, the originally introduced bill was amended in committee to remove an optional fee on bags over a transition period of five years and now implements a ban, with limited exceptions, by Jan. 1, 2021 with no fee in the meantime.
In the public hearing for Bill 268 and Guam Youth Congress’s plastic bag ban bill, many students, businesses, general members of the public including several children, and various environmentally focused organizations, including the University of Guam’s Center for Island Sustainability, came out in support of both measures.
“I thank the Center for Island Sustainability for their support from the beginning of this initiative and am excited to see even more community partners step up to the plate to help our community make this transition and become more mindful of their consumption and disposal habits,” Biscoe Lee said.
The senator now calls on the governor to sign this bill into law. “The governor and lieutenant governor have been proponents of cleaning up the island. They have organized and participated in cleanups, seeing the magnitude of our island’s trash problem first-hand and even launched Guam’s Zero Waste Plan,” Biscoe Lee said. “I now call on the governor to enact this measure so we can start to realize a much cleaner, healthier Guam.”