By Eric Rosario
Senators are debating legislation by Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee to ban retail stores and restaurants from using and giving out plastic and paper bags.
The bill originally would have banned the use of plastic bags on January 1, 2021. Sen. Kelly Marsh Taitano, however, successfully pushed an amendment to extend the deadline to December 31, 2021. Ms. Lee argued for an amendment to her bill that will ban the use of paper bags after July 1, 2022.
"What about McDonald's and Wendy's?" Ms. Taitague asked. "They use paper bags to give out food."
"This provision does not apply to eating establishments," Ms. Lee said, clarifying that the paper bag ban will not apply to restaurants, only to other retail outlets.
The amendment passed without objection.
Ms. Lee said a study of Guam's landfill shows more than 60 percent of all plastic waste is plastic bags that come from retail stores.
"Imagine that by banning these plastic bags, we will eliminate 60 percent of all plastic waste at our landfill," Ms. Lee said. She also recognized the economic impact of such a ban and said this is why she agreed to push the original deadlines back.
"I know that when this bill was introduced it was to ban plastic bags, then it included biodegradable plastic bags, and now there's an amendment to include paper bags. I'm just concerned, is the community aware we were going to ban paper bags," Sen. Therese Terlaje said. "It's a huge change."
"Paper bags are costly for business owners, and they're costly for our environment," Ms. Lee said.