HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Say aloha to plastic bags.
Oahu has joined the rest of the State in expanding a plastic bag ban to include biodegradable ones.
At the bill signing ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says the ban will protect our most precious resource. To make that point, he shared his own personal experience at the park, saying "For a while I was coming here swimming laps and you know what I hated the most? You're swimming along, arm gets wrapped in plastic bag and you go whoa what was that?"
Kahi Pacarro of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii added, "I surfed out here couple of months ago and in span of 2 hours removed 5 plastic bags and 2 styrofoam cups just floating out into the NorPacific garbage patch."
The bill amendment supported by City Councilman Stanley Chang takes out an exemption for biodegradable bags, which take a longer time to break down than compostable ones.
Surfrider Foundation Hawaii Coordinator Stuart Coleman explained the significance, saying "Hawaii was the first state to ban plastic in all of the counties, and yet we had this big exemption, loophole. Today this bill closes that loophole."
Tim Houghton, Deputy Director of the City's Department of Environmental Services said biodegradable bags posed a challenge because there's no industry definition. "At least with compostable you've got a set standard" explains Houghton. "A set label that helps people understand."
The hope is to prevent plastic from ending up in our ocean swallowed by marine life.
Stanley Chang said, "It's estimated more than a million sea birds and fauna will die every year because of marine debris so it's very important in an island state we make sure to control as much as possible what's going into our oceans."
Jack Johnson's Kokua Foundation has been handing out re-usable bags to promote a plastic free Hawaii.
Kokua Foundation Hawaii's Rachel Harvey said, "We've been giving these bags away, 8 thousand free to locals, tourists and visitors since February and the public is very receptive and pleased about this ban."
Mayor Caldwell summed up the significance of Oahu's expanded ban like this. "Now the entire Island is going to be plastic free and i think that's really important because we're surrounded by water and these bags are blowing everywhere."
The law contains exemptions for bags used inside the business to package loose items such as meat or fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, and candy.