Kauai passes plastic bag ban

News Report
Joan Conrow
Plastic bags, which are linked to wildlife deaths, will be banned from Kauai in 2011.      Photo courtesy of Malama Kauai.

KAUAI—Effective Jan. 11, 2011, Kauai businesses will be barred from giving their customers single-use plastic bags.

The Kauai County Council on Wednesday voted to join Maui County in banning the bags, which contribute to wildlife deaths and litter and don?t break down in landfills.

Biodegradable bags—defined as those with no polymers derived from fossil fuels—will be allowed, as will paper. The county is also planning to distribute 25,000 free re-usable bags to county residents.

Under the bill, businesses can be fined $250 per day for their first violation, and $500 per day if they receive a second violation within a year. The fine goes up to $1,000 per day if the violations continue.

The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara. Councilmembers Kaipo Asing and Daryl Kaneshiro voted against the measure, saying they preferred to work on educating people to choose re-usable bags and recycle plastic bags. Enforcement was another issue cited.

Opposition also came from the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, which expressed concerns about increased government intervention in the marketplace, and the Retail Merchants of Hawai’i and Hawai’i Food Industry Association, which raised issues about the environmental trade-offs involved with using paper and corn-based biodegradable bags.

Councilman Derek Kawakami abstained from discussion and voting because his family has a chain of local markets.