City reminds Oahu retailers about new plastic bag ban

City reminds Oahu retailers about new plastic bag ban
Published: Feb. 9, 2015 at 11:36 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2015 at 11:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - City officials are contacting roughly 10,000 retailers on Oahu this week to remind them about a major change that will be coming to checkout counters. Some businesses are already gearing up for the plastic bag ban that starts on July 1.

City Mill is carefully timing its plastic bag transition. The company plans to use up its old inventory a month or two before the ban begins.

"We have ordered a bag that is more than double the strength of our existing bag, which is a great bag if you compare it with some of the other bags around town," said Carol Ai May, City Mill's vice president.

Under the new rules, three types of checkout bags will be allowed: compostable plastic bags, recyclable paper bag, and reusable bags made of cloth or a durable material, including plastic that is at least 2.25 millimeters thick.

City Mill chose to buy reusable plastic bags for a higher price.

"The cost is really pretty substantial, two to three times as much as what we've been paying in the past for an already premium bag, so we're really encouraging people to bring their own bags," said Ai May.

Retail Merchants of Hawaii is urging its members to write letters of complaint to the city. The group favors an educational campaign to promote "Reduce Reuse Recycle" efforts instead of the ban.

"This is, again, another fee, another burden that will be placed on their bottom line numbers. Ultimately, as you know, those fees go back to the consumer," said Sheri Sakamoto, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii.

City officials said the biggest challenge with the new ban will be enforcement.

"It's more of a self-policing, so annually they would have to turn in the compliance form to us. If we don't receive them, of course we'll go out and ask them for the form. Then the public, if we receive complaints, then we're going to have to go ahead and enforce," said Lori Kahikina, director of the Department of Environmental Services.

Honolulu is the last county in Hawaii to make the switch. City officials said the change would help to decrease pollution and protect the environment.

"To help reduce the effects on the land and the ocean, maybe litter, the bags floating around," said Kahikina.

There are several exclusions from the ban, such as plastic bags takeout food, bags for loose items like produce and hardware, and dry cleaning bags.

Kahikina said violators can be fined $100 to $1,000 per day.

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