Hawaii News — Prepare For Plastic Bag Ban To Take Effect

(Media release) —

The one-year transition period specified in the Hawai‘i County Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance ends January 17, 2014. After that date, businesses on Hawai‘i Island shall not provide plastic checkout bags to their customers. The purpose of the ordinance is to reduce the usage of single-use plastic bags by prohibiting their distribution at store checkouts and encouraging the usage of reusable bags.


Many stores are choosing to stop using plastic bags and are already encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags. One high quality reusable bag can replace hundreds of single-use plastic bags over its lifetime. In the long term, the cost of a reusable bag can be lower than the cost of the single-use plastic bags it replaces.


The ordinance exempts plastic bags without handles that are used for retail items such as meat, produce, bulk food items, garments, and prescription drugs. It also exempts non-profit organizations and non-incorporated community booster organizations. Paper bags are still permitted under the ordinance.


If a business violates the ordinance, a warning letter will be issued. A second violation will result in a civil fine of $250 per day. The third violation will result in a civil fine of $500 per day and subsequent violations will result in civil fines of $1,000 per day.


Environmental problems posed by plastic bags warrant the implementation of this type of law and it is consistent with the County’s General Plan, which implores the County to “take positive action to further maintain the quality of the environment.” It is an important milestone on the County’s path toward Zero Waste, a commitment to protecting our island.


Hawai‘i County residents join 54% of the world’s population who live in an area that has plastic bag bans or fees to reduce plastic pollution. All Hawai‘i counties have passed plastic bag reduction ordinances, joining a growing list of cities, counties, and nations around the world taking similar initiatives including 28 entire countries.


For more information, please visit HawaiiZeroWaste.com where the ordinance, rules, and outreach materials can be viewed and downloaded. For questions and additional information about the new ordinance, please contact the Department of Environmental Management at bring-ur-bag@hawaiicounty.gov or (808) 961-8942.

(Submitted by Bobby Jean Leithead Todd.)

6 replies
  1. Steve.
    Steve. says:

    It may be good to understand the facts on both sides of the equation.
    This is an excerpt from another viewpoint

    Despite common misconceptions, plastic bags are actually the most environmentally friendly option at checkout. They’re 100% recyclable — unlike some alternatives — and studies show banning plastic bags could increase global warming, put more carbon in the air, require more trucks on the road and use up more water because consumers would be forced to use resource-heavy alternatives like paper and reusable bags. Plus, studies show that taxes and bans don’t prevent litter or keep plastic waste out of landfills.

    Across the U.S., millions of people choose plastic bags to be the environmentally friendly way to take items home from the store.

    Plastic grocery bags are the greener option at checkout

    Plastic bags require less resources to produce and transport than common alternatives
    The production of plastic bags consumes less than 4% of the water needed to make paper bags1
    Plastic grocery bags require 70% less energy to manufacture than paper bags2
    For every seven trucks needed to deliver paper bags, one truck is needed for the same number of plastic bags3
    American plastic bags are made from natural gas, NOT oil. In the U.S., 85% of the raw material used to make plastic bags is produced from natural gas.4 This means the U.S. plastic bag industry is helping our economy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil-producing nations
    The life cycle of paper and reusable bags has a significantly larger impact on the environment than plastic bags
    A standard reusable cotton grocery bag must be reused 131 times “to ensure that they have lower global warming potential than” a single use of a plastic bag
    It would take 7.5 years of using the same cloth bag (assuming one grocery trip per week) before it’s a better option for the environment than a plastic bag reused three times5
    Plastic bags generate 80% less waste than paper bags6
    Approximately 2,000 plastic bags weigh 26 lbs as opposed to the 228 lbs 2,000 paper bags weigh7 — taking up more landfill space
    Bag bans and taxes don’t reduce litter

    Studies show that taxes and bans don’t keep plastic litter out of the landfill. Without plastic grocery bags, people just purchase replacement bags — often made of thicker, heavier plastic — and then send those bags to the landfill, too.8 Plastic bags only make up a tiny fraction (less than 0.5 %) of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream9
    According to a study by Keep America Beautiful, many items drive up litter more than plastic bags, including cigarette butts, food wrappers, cups and cans.10 That’s why banning bags won’t address the larger litter problem

  2. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Fewer plastic bags means fewer plastic bags.
    Most importantly, fewer in the ocean, the point
    totally missed by Steve..
    The stats are largely comparisons among narrowed choices.
    For instance, getting your food from a supermarket is in itself inherently unsustainable on many fronts.
    For instance, if you get food from the neighborhood, ‘plastic or paper?’ becomes an obsolete question,
    even in a post.
    For instance, re-use cardboard boxes in the meantime.
    No new production needed
    (but let’s reduce cardboard encapsulated imports),
    they are very practical,
    quickly wormified after robust utility.
    This law is a good, thought provoking
    ‘limit on our freedoms’,
    a freedom nature never gave us.

  3. Hugh Clark
    Hugh Clark says:

    Not to mention plastic that sails into my yard with each passing gust of wind.

    Plastic lovers may come and claim their prized goodies at any time.

  4. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Expect more widespread illnesses with this kind of extreme environmentalist legislation. I can only imagine that it will be taken further.

    I was shopping at Target the other day when the cashier informed me that the chain will not be offering disposable bags of any sort; we all must bring in re-usable bags. She then went into how easy it is for her to retrieve her reusable bags from beneath her kitchen sink before she goes shopping for the day.

    …from beneath her kitchen sink….

    But, I have seen worse. Some people just keep them in the back of their car, then pile rubbish on top of them when hauling it to the transfer station. Others store them on their floor board. Inside of houses, I have seen many stuffed in the cracks between the refrigerator and cabinetry. Standing in checkout lines, I have watched those before me place their visibly-stained bags on the checkout counter.

    If there were a documentary done consisting of ‘re-usable bag cam’ footage any viewer would be appalled. (…hint, hint, Big Island Video News.)

    How many of us (ESPECIALLY IN PUNA) actually (have the ability to) wash our re-usable bags in between every visit to the store? How many of us *sanitize* them?

    Some of the re-usable bags cannot even be put through a washing machine!

    It amazes me how we are willingly regulated in so many aspects relating to public health and safety (most notably in the food service industry), yet when it comes to this, people (and those who represent them) are so…complacent.

    I personally see myself shopping more online. I like supporting the local economy as much as possible, but t his makes me ill just thinking about it.

  5. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    “Plastic grocery bags are the greener option at checkout”?
    Steve’s report of this position does not consider what happens to plastic bags and other options AFTER the check out counter, even though that plastic travels far and lasts a long, long time including as tiny fragments. An honest accounting would include the bags blowing into Hugh’s yard and into the ocean where some really serious havoc is being caused by plastic. See http://www.algalita.org.

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