Aloha (as in, Goodbye) to Plastic Bags in Hawaii

Our fiftieth state becomes the first in the nation to ban the bag.

plastic bag debris on a beach
Plastic bag debris along a beach. (Stringer/Reuters)
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

They don’t call it paradise for nothing. The Honolulu City Council recently voted 7-1 in favor of a bill banning plastic bags in retail stores across Honolulu County, which comprises the island of Oahu and Hawaii’s capital city of Honolulu. It’s a bigger deal than it sounds because Hawaii’s other counties have already banned the bags, so our island state is showing the rest of the country how to get things done by becoming the first place in the U.S. to officially enact a statewide ban on plastic bags.

Any business caught ignoring the measure would be fined up to $1,000 for each day of violation.

The bill, which will be phased in over three years and takes effect on July 1, 2015, defines a plastic bag as “a bag that is made from non-biodegradable plastic, and is not specifically designed or manufactured for multiple re-use.”

While there are a few exceptions, such as bags distributed to package loose fruit, vegetables, nuts, flowers, or live fish, this is a huge step forward. Any business caught ignoring the measure would be fined up to $1,000 for each day of violation.

That Hawaii took the lead on this issue may not be as surprising as it seems.

Citing a paper published by the journal Biology Letters, MSNBC.com recently reported that, “The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’—which is roughly the size of Texas—was created by plastic waste that finds its way into the sea and is then swept into one area, the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, by circulating ocean currents known as a gyre.”

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography notes that this new study, “follows a report published last year by Scripps researchers in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series showing that nine percent of the fish collected during SEAPLEX contained plastic waste in their stomachs.”

Armed with information like that, it’s no wonder there’s a lot of public support for a ban like this is in a place so closely connected with nature and marine life—and that also happens to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

Do you think plastic bags should be banned in your state?

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