When bans on plastic bags kick in Tuesday on Maui and Kauai, businesses will begin providing environmentally friendly alternatives and more shoppers are expected to bring reusables with them to checkout counters.
The Maui County Council approved a ban there in August 2008 while the Kauai County Council adopted its law a year later in October 2009, and implementation begins next week. The goal is to become more environmentally friendly by reducing litter, burden on landfills, and threats to marine life.
On Maui, all businesses, including restaurants, will be restricted from providing nonbiodegradable bags to customers at checkout. They will be required to provide recyclable paper or reusable bags for sale or at no charge.
Owners who fail to comply with the new law will face a fine of $500 per day. If the violation continues, the daily fine will be doubled on the first day of each 30-day period. If compliance isn’t reached, fines can be increased up to $1,000 per day.
On Kauai, all commercial businesses, including restaurants and takeout food establishments, will be restricted from providing plastic bags at checkout. Recyclable paper bags and biodegradable bags will replace plastic. Businesses that fail to comply face a $250 per day fine for the first notice, $500 a day for the second notice, and $1,000 a day for the third.
PLASTIC BAG BAN
For more information on the plastic checkout bag ban in Maui County, go to www.co.maui.hi.us and click on "Plastic Bag Reduction" on the left side of the page.
For more information on the plastic checkout bag ban in Kauai County, go to www.kauai.gov/bagordinance.
For sanitary purposes in both counties, thin plastic bags still will be available at businesses for raw meat, poultry, produce and bulk items such as pastries, granola and flour. Bags used to protect garments will be allowed at dry cleaning businesses.
Oahu and the Big Island do not have such bans in place.
In November 2009, the Honolulu City Council’s Public Infrastructure Committee deferred a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags. A letter by Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger to the City Council said it was unclear what type of plastic bags would be banned, and the extent of the ban was also unclear.
He also pointed out that Oahu’s HPOWER plant is capable of converting plastic bags and other waste to energy, unlike waste facilities on Maui and Kauai.
On the Big Island, a plastic carryout bag ban bill was narrowly defeated by a vote of 5-4 by the County Council in February. A ban approved by the council in 2008 was vetoed under then-Mayor Harry Kim.
A measure considered by the state Legislature was deferred in last year’s session, but supporters say they will continue efforts to seek a statewide ban.
"I have little or no doubt that we would have legislation of some type on the Big Island and Oahu in the near future," said Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club-Hawaii Chapter.
Some opponents say banning plastic bags will not solve litter problems and increases operating costs for businesses.
"A lot of the problems of plastic bags is the human factor. It’s not the item itself. It’s the human behavior that needs to be changed," said Carol Pregill, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii. "Paper is more expensive, not only in the purchase of the product but also in shipping."