City proposal could repeal Oahu's contentious plastic bag ban

Updated: May. 2, 2017 at 10:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A city proposal could give back Oahu retailers the ability to use any type of plastic bag again, with a consumer fee.

Current law allows businesses to hand out compostable and reusable plastic bags that are at least 2.5 milliliters thick.

Critics call it a loophole and point to the many stores that use the thicker bags to get around the ban.

On Wednesday, the City Council's Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee will vote on Bill 59.

On one side, Councilman Brandon Elefante wants to wants to increase the required thickness and ultimately ban plastic bags completely by the year 2020, citing environmental concerns.

"Seeing out there that there are bags flying around and it's impacting our environment, I felt it was warranted to look at legislation and tighten up our current existing law," Elefante said.

On the other side, Councilwoman Carol Fukanaga wants to repeal the ban altogether and allow stores to give out any type of bag for 10 cents each.

Retail merchants are backing the idea.

"We agree to the 10 cents," said Tina Yamaki of Retail Merchants of Hawaii. "People are not going to change. You go to the store now and you bring your recyclable bags, but if they have an in-store special that bag will over fill and you will need one more bag."

It's not just stores at odds. Almost two years into the so-called bag ban, even customers are still split.

"Plastic is a material that we have to use in modern 21st century civilization, there's just no way of getting around it," said Rory Walkinshaw.

"There's no sense to having these plastic bags," Michelle Russo said. "There's no sense in having these Styrofoam containers. There are ways to get around all of this that are cost effective and better for us and the environment."

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