Retailers gear up for Oahu's plastic bag ban

Published: Apr. 14, 2015 at 9:08 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 14, 2015 at 9:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With Oahu's plastic bag ban just around the corner, retailers are stocking up for the switch. Island Plastic Bags in Halawa is helping customers prepare for the change at checkout counters that starts July 1.

"They all got that compliance letter in the mail. A lot of them are panicking so we're going out to a lot of customers, talking to them about it, talking about their options," said Adrian Hong, president of Island Plastic Bags.

City officials said they sent out compliance forms to 9,200 businesses, but only about 4,000 replied. Roughly 30% of those who responded said the ban doesn't apply to their company or they're not going to offer bags. 10% are switching to compostable bags, but there is no composting facility in Hawaii. 30% plan to use recyclable paper bags. Another 30% are ordering thicker plastic bags (at least 2.25 mils) that are considered reusable.

"That's more plastic that they have to use to make the bag which is more of a finite resource. It's oil. Plastic is made out of oil. They also pose just as much of a risk to our marine creatures," said Kahi Pacarro, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

"The whole reason for the ban was to prevent litter, the plastic bags floating on the streets or on the beaches or in the parks. So with the heavier plastic, it won't be caught up by the wind. The reusable ones, they are more sturdy," explained Lori Kahikina, director of the Department of Environmental Services.

Pacarro said the ban is far from perfect, but it's a step in the right direction.

"At this point, now we got something in. So now we've worked together, proven that we can do it together. Now let's take the next step and close these loopholes," he said.

The city hopes that shoppers will bring reusable bags made of cloth or some other renewable material.

"Now they're not going to let you just have a bag. They're going to charge you 10 cents a bag or they're just going to increase the cost of ketchup when they sell it to you, or the beer or whatever," said Hong.

There are several exclusions, including plastic bags for takeout food.

In the coming weeks, the city plans to send out another round of compliance forms to businesses that have not responded.

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