G3 mounts plastic ban campaign as part of circular economy shift

The Guam Green Growth Conservation Corps are on the scene at stores throughout the island for the Bring Your Own Bag campaign.

In less than two months, single-use plastic bags will no longer be distributed at retail stores on island. 

In response, the University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability and Guam Green Growth launched an education campaign in late October to help the community prepare for the sustainable shift .  

The campaign involves visiting select convenience stores at all 19 villages over several weeks. At these stores, the Guam Green Growth team are expected to provide information on the ban and distribute thousands of reusable shopping bags to customers. 

G3CC member Daniel Stone hands out free reusable shopping bags at a local store.

“Bring Your Own Bag” campaign promotes Public Law 35-130, which totally phases out single-use carry-out bags at retail stores and restaurants. Governor Lou Leon Guerrero signed the law in December 2020. 

The public law amends the “Choose to Reuse: Mungna Ma Ayek I Plastek Act of 2018” by removing current exemptions and expanding the coverage of the 2018 law. 

“This year since January 2021, plastic bags are already banned from being distributed, but the exemptions are biodegradable bags, paper bags, and bags made from Plastic #2 HDPE. But effective January 2022, biodegradable and HDPE plastic bags will also be banned,” UOG Center for Island Sustainability coordinator Phil Cruz said.   

P.L. 35-130 has a bridge provision that allows certain businesses to continue using paper bags until July 1, 2022. 

Cruz urged the community to switch to reusable bags before the ban takes full effect. “We are seeing harmful effects to our environment. Whether beach cleanups or village cleanups, we often find single-use plastic bags littered in our streets during our cleanups. There is also evidence that plastic bags are having harmful effects on our marine life. We want to protect our marine resources. Reducing the use of single-use plastic bags is just one step toward being more sustainable.”  

For CIS director Austin Shelton, the move away from plastic bags contributes to the overall goal of shifting the island economy from a linear to a circular system. Guam follows the linear economic model where resources are extracted, turned into products, and then disposed of after use. The circular economy model closes the loop by creating new uses for materials that would otherwise end up as waste diverted into the landfill. The circular economy end goals are to prolong the product life cycle, lessen the burden on natural resources, and regenerate natural systems.  

“When we do those things and create the transition to the circular economy, we have a greener Guam with green economic growth. That’s good for us and for all of our people so that we can continue living in the place that we love very much and that is our home, the island of Guam,” Shelton said. 

Shelton added, “It would be really great if you start going green now, and bring your own reusable bag whenever you go shopping, and help create our sustainable future.”  

Guam Green Growth prepares the community for the emerging green economy. The program aligns with the current island wide efforts to achieve sustainability and other U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Meanwhile, implementing a circular economy on the island contributes to achieving multiple U.N. SDGs, including SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate change), and others.   

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