HAWAII COUNTY – The end of plastic bags at Hawaii Island checkout counters is just a few weeks away. After January 17, customers in Big Island stores will no longer be able to pack up their purchases using plastic bags. The Hawaii County Department of Environmental Management issued a media release in advance of the date:
The one-year transition period specified in the Hawai‘i County Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance ends January 17, 2014. After that date, businesses on Hawai‘i Island shall not provide plastic checkout bags to their customers. The purpose of the ordinance is to reduce the usage of single-use plastic bags by prohibiting their distribution at store checkouts and encouraging the usage of reusable bags.
Many stores are choosing to stop using plastic bags and are already encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags. One high quality reusable bag can replace hundreds of single-use plastic bags over its lifetime. In the long term, the cost of a reusable bag can be lower than the cost of the single-use plastic bags it replaces.
The ordinance exempts plastic bags without handles that are used for retail items such as meat, produce, bulk food items, garments, and prescription drugs. It also exempts non-profit organizations and non-incorporated community booster organizations. Paper bags are still permitted under the ordinance.
If a business violates the ordinance, a warning letter will be issued. A second violation will result in a civil fine of $250 per day. The third violation will result in a civil fine of $500 per day and subsequent violations will result in civil fines of $1,000 per day.
Environmental problems posed by plastic bags warrant the implementation of this type of law and it is consistent with the County’s General Plan, which implores the County to “take positive action to further maintain the quality of the environment.” It is an important milestone on the County’s path toward Zero Waste, a commitment to protecting our island.
Hawai‘i County residents join 54% of the world’s population who live in an area that has plastic bag bans or fees to reduce plastic pollution. All Hawai‘i counties have passed plastic bag reduction ordinances, joining a growing list of cities, counties, and nations around the world taking similar initiatives including 28 entire countries.
For more information, please visit HawaiiZeroWaste.com where the ordinance, rules, and outreach materials can be viewed and downloaded. For questions and additional information about the new ordinance, please contact the Department of Environmental Management at firstname.lastname@example.org or (808) 961-8942.