Update: Honolulu’s plastic bag ban

Mayor Caldwell signed a bill amending Honolulu's plastic checkout store bag ban today.

Will Caron

The bill the Mayor signed today (Bill 38, CD2) amends a law enacted in 2012 under the previous mayoral administration (Ordinance 12-8), implementing a ban on plastic and non-recyclable paper bags set to take effect July 1, 2015.

This new bill will amend the law to specifically prohibit “biodegradable” plastic bags, due to concerns raised about the lack of an industry standard over the definition of “biodegradable” bag. Instead, the bill allows “certified compostable” bags which carry the “compostable” logo approved by the Biodegradable Products Institute, in order to provide businesses with a clear definition.

Currently, Honolulu is the only remaining county in the State of Hawai‘i with no regulation of plastic grocery bags. The bill notes that plastic bags “may remain relatively intact for long periods of time, and fragments of plastic in the environment may harm insects, fish and animals if consumed.”

When the law goes into effect on July 1 next year, regular plastic checkout bags will be banned, but all these options will remain:

·      Reusable bags;

·      “Compostable” plastic bags;

·      Recyclable paper bags.

The law also contains these exemptions:

·      Bags used inside the business to package loose items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, candy, or small hardware items;

·      Bags used to contain frozen foods, meat or fish, flowers or plants;

·      Bags used by pharmacists for medications;

·      Newspaper bags;

·      Laundry and dry cleaning bags;

·      Bags sold in packages for garbage, pet waste and yard waste;

·      Bags from pet stores;

·      Bags to contain chemicals.

Bill 38, CD2 was passed unanimously by the Honolulu City Council on September 10, 2014.