Countdown to Oahu's plastic bag ban

Countdown to Oahu's plastic bag ban
Published: Jun. 26, 2015 at 9:56 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 26, 2015 at 11:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu will soon ban plastic checkout bags. The city passed the restriction three years ago to help prevent plastic from ending up in the ocean. The new law is set to start on July 1.

Mary Roy supports the ban, but admits that she has been hoarding plastic bags.

"I think it's a good idea, personally, environmentally, but I think it's going to be real humbug for awhile, getting used to different types of other bags, bringing your own, that kind of thing," said the Mililani resident.

The Target store in Kailua has only offered reusable bags since opening in March. Shoppers can buy a cloth bag or bring their own.

"A perk to using the bag in our store is that you actually save five cents for every bag that you use during your purchase, so it's a great way to not only help the environment, but also save a little bit of money, too," said Shea Ledbetter, executive team leader.

"Aesthetically, it's going to be a big step and also environmentally, in terms of protecting our best resources we have here in Hawaii," said Rafael Bergstrom, the Surfrider Foundation's Oahu Chapter coordinator.

Under the ban, retailers can provide recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags and reusable bags, which include ones made of thicker plastic.

"While there are loopholes, the thickness of bags, even produce, meat bags and things like that, over time, I think people will understand the reasons why this is happening," said Bergstrom.

Honolulu is the last county in Hawaii to make the transition. A similar ban for the Big Island started in 2013. For Kauai and Maui County, the switch happened four years ago. County officials told Hawaii News Now that they warned some violators, but no retailers were fined since they made changes to comply with the new restrictions. On Oahu, the fine starts at $100 per day and can reach up to $1,000 per day for repeat offenders.

During this past legislative session, the Surfrider Foundation unsuccessfully pushed for a statewide law instead of separate county bans.

"The fear is that we definitely don't want to undermine what counties have already done, so if we create a state law that's not as stringent as some of the counties have already set up, we don't want to take them back some steps," explained Bergstrom.

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