Hawaii Becomes First State to Ban Plastic Bags
Last week, Hawaii became the first state to ban the use of plastic bags by retailers. Honolulu County became the fourth and final county in the state to issue a ban on the disposable bags when Mayor Peter Carlisle signed the measure on Thursday, May 17.
"This is groundbreaking," Carlisle said. "By signing this environmentally friendly bill, Honolulu joined our neighbor island counties."
Kauai and Maui counties currently have a plastic bag ban, while Hawaii County's ban will be enforced on January 17, 2013. "Hawaii has become the only state in the United States where every county has plastic bag legislation," Carlisle added. Honolulu County's ban will be implemented on July 15, 2015.
While the ban on plastic bags is not a law at the state level, the bans in the four counties apply to virtually every part of the island state. Hawaii has a fifth county, Kalawao, located on a peninsula on the island of Moloka'i. Maui County has jurisdiction over the rest of the island.
The Hawaiian ban affects non-biodegradable disposable plastic bags as well as paper bags that contain less than 40 percent recycled material. Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club's Hawaii chapter, emphasized the importance of these laws for coastal regions. "Being a marine state, perhaps, we are exposed more directly to the impacts of plastic pollution and the damage it does to our environment," Harris told MSNBC. "People in Hawaii are more likely to be in the water or in the outdoors and see the modern day tumbleweed—plastic bags—in the environment."
Like many of the other bans occurring around the country, Honolulu's measure only applies to retailers giving out the bags. Citizens are encouraged to bring their own bags when shopping, and retailers are expected to offer reusable promotional shopping bags as alternatives.
Several counties in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have similar bans in place, as do areas in Washington state, including Seattle. Vermont's state senate approved a measure that would create a true state-wide ban on disposable bags, but that measure is attached to a bill pertaining to Vermont's bottle deposit law which is currently under review.