Big Island charging for plastic bags

HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new fee on plastic bags went into effect on the Big Island, with shoppers paying a nickel for each plastic grocery bag they use.

At the Hilo Farmers Market, there were signs that said it would cost shoppers extra for a plastic bag. But at least one shopper didn't pay the fee. "No I didn't," said Randi Okatani, laughing. "He gave it to me for free. He was so nice."

There were a handful of shoppers who brought their own bags, but there were still a lot of plastic bags that were seen.

The fee is meant to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags under the county's Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance. "Considering some fishes and turtles might be injured, I guess it's justifiable," said farmers market vendor Kenneth Namba. "Because when I was small there was no baggie, and things was working out."

At KTA Super Stores in Hilo, there were big signs reminding shoppers about the new fee and reusable bags for sale, prominently displayed. A lot of shoppers were already bringing in their own bags -- or whatever they could use, instead of a plastic bag. Other shoppers didn't use any bags at all, with their groceries in their shopping carts or just carried out in hand.

"I think it's great," said shopper Terry Miura. "I've been actually doing this for a long time, bringing my own bags. I have a load of them."

Even the Hawaii County Council chair was bringing in his own bags. "I think it's a good thing, even though I didn't support it initially," said J Yoshimoto. "I think it's something the public will accept. But we'll see how it goes, too. We'll see how it goes."

KTA has actually taken things a step further. It's charging a nickel for both paper and plastic bags. But it is giving shoppers a five-cent credit for each reusable bag they bring in.

"There was a lot of communication that went out to the stores, a lot of discussions," said KTA marketing manager Tracie Yamane. "We covered a lot of bases, so we're hoping that the transition is really smooth."

The next transition for the Big Island will come a year from now, when plastic grocery bags will be completely banned.

Oahu is now the only island without some kind of fee or ban on plastic bags. But that will change when a ban goes into effect in July 2015.

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