On Wednesday, the first day of Oahu’s plastic checkout bag ban, Bert Silva brought several of his reusable bags to Foodland in Kapolei. But the change to bringing his own bags to the grocery store was nothing new to him.
“I’m into the environment, and I think it’s about time we did it,” said Silva of Makakilo, who has been using the reusable bags for about three months.
Other residents also seemed to be adjusting fairly well to the ban, some saying they have been preparing for the change by keeping reusable bags in their cars.
City Environmental Services Director Lori Kahikina acknowledged that the ban will be an adjustment for residents of Oahu, the last county in the state to implement an ordinance aimed at stepping up use of environmentally friendly checkout bags, but said the law is a compromise between environmentalists and businesses that have to pay more for compostable or paper bags.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Kahikina said at a new conference Wednesday at Foodland in Kapolei. “This really is a litter problem that we’re trying to curb.”
Some stores, including Foodland, are offering incentives to customers who bring their own bags. Foodland customers who bring reusable bags will receive a 5-cent credit or three Hawaiian Miles for each bag used at checkout.
Foodland estimates that they sell more than 200,000 reusable bags statewide per year.
“We’ve been planning this for many years now,” said Foodland spokeswoman Sheryl Toda, adding that Foodland stores on neighbor islands already have policies in place to comply with bans established in other counties. “We’re following the same plan that we have there for rewarding our customers for doing their part to keep Hawaii clean.”
At Target in Kapolei, customers said Wednesday they received a free reusable bag.
Mary Kaulia said she bought three reusable bags at the store and got the fourth one free.
“This is something new for me,” said Kaulia. “I kind of like that because it’s better for the environment.”
As a diver, she said, she sees plastic bags at Kahe Point Beach Park and hopes the ban will help to eliminate litter.
Honolulu County’s plastic checkout bag ban became an ordinance three years ago, although its implementation was delayed. The ban was amended last year.
Environmental groups and several city officials maintain that plastic bags have significant negative effects on the environment, including litter and threats to marine animals.
Retailers can choose to provide compostable plastic bags and recyclable paper bags containing a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content. But those retailers giving out compostable or paper bags will pay 10 to 14 cents per bag, whereas plastic bags cost 2 cents a bag.
Kahikina said customers may still bring their own plastic bags to the store, adding that there might be some confusion at first. She said an inspector will be sent to a business if someone reports a violation. Fines for businesses not complying with the ban range between $100 to $1,000 per day.
“I have three of the reusable bags in my trunk, and I always forget,” Kahikina said. “But as of today (Wednesday), I can’t.”
Oahu’s law permits several exemptions, including the use of plastic bags for plate lunches and other prepared food, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, and other loose items, such as coffee, candy, flowers, medications, newspapers and nuts.
Leah Slappy, who supports the law because it’s environmentally friendly, said she will now have to buy more bags after she runs out of her “stock supply.”
“If they (customers) have to go and specifically buy them (plastic bags), they’ll buy them for a purpose,” such as trash pickup, said Slappy of Ewa Beach.
For more information on the ban, visit opala.org. To read the city ordinance, visit 808ne.ws/1IMdOBr.