Ready or not: Guam's plastic ban begins in January

Updated: Jan 14

Collect your reusable bags because come Jan. 1, the “Choose to Reuse” law will take effect, banningGuam seeking inclusion in new federal relief package single-use of plastic carryout bags.

With more than a year to prepare for this environmental policy, is Guam finally ready to embrace a plastic-free life?

“As with any new policy, it may take some adjustment, but I believe Guam is ready for the upcoming ban in January,” said Sen. Regine Biscoe-Lee, author of Public Law 34-110, titled “Choose to Reuse: Mungnga Ma Ayek I Plastek Act of 2018.”

The law, signed on June 7, 2018, provided a year-and-a-half transition period to get every retailer and resident on board with the sustainable shopping practice.The law will be enforced by the Guam Environmental protection Agency. Violators will face a fine of $500 for first offense; $1,000 for second offense; and $10,000 for third offense.

So far so good, Lee said, noting signs of progress: “Looking around at all the reusable bags available throughout the island, the many retail stores that have adopted sustainable practices, government programs focused on green initiatives, and activists promoting this and other policies on social media.”

The shift won’t be that hard, according to Dededo resident and art teacher Julius Sotomayor. “We have been ready,” he said. “I have reduced, if not fully eliminated, my consumption of plastics. If I’m buying only one item, I don’t ask for a bag.”

Some, however, think the plastic ban may not do much to reduce Guam’s solid waste. “I appreciate the sentiment,” said Maite resident Jacq Guzman. “But what about lining small trash cans? We will just end up buying more plastic trash bags.”

Currently pending in the Guam Legislature is Bill 373-35, which would expand the ban to include biodegradable plastic and paper bags.

“Here at Pay-Less, we are ready to make a sustainable change to help reduce the environmental impact of plastic bags on our island, and we are fully ready to implement the plastic bag ban,” said Carina Pegarido, marketing manager of Payless Supermarkets.