Update: Maui & Kauai's plastic bag ordinances in effect

By: Josh Kizler On January 11th of this year, plastic bag laws went into effect in Maui and Kauai Counties in Hawaii, joining a wave a similar anti-plastic-bag ordinances gaining momentum worldwide. Aside from Kauai’s exception for biodegradable plastic bags,[1] Kauai’s and Maui’s ordinances both prohibit the distribution of plastic bags at all retail establishments or businesses - this is a bold move in that no class of entity has been exempted.[2]

Praised by the Environmental Protection Agency, Kauai and Maui’s bans respectively impose fines starting at $250 and $500, and are expected to reduce consumer plastic waste.[3] Jared Blumenfeld of the EPA stated that the bans would curb the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans, specifically referencing the Great Pacific Garbage.[4] The garbage patch is a massive assortment of plastic and other debris that continues to accumulate, working its way into the marine food chain, killing marine life, and causing an unsightly mess.[5] While there seems to be no solution regarding the cleanup of garbage already in the Pacific, policies such as Maui’s and Kauai’s aim to mitigate further catastrophe.

Last July Maui County’s Office of Economic Development started up a Bring Your Own Bag campaign to encourage consumers to refuse plastic bags at the checkout aisle. The County visited all types of businesses in an effort to market its campaign thereby preparing the public for the change. While paper bags are more expensive for retailers to supply, the ban is expected to motivate consumers to bring in their own reusable bags. Furthermore, under the Maui and Kauai bans, retailers are neither precluded from nor mandated to provide consumers either paper or reusable bags. In the long run, stores could benefit financially if they are no longer burdened with supplying customers bags, regardless of whether or not the cost is passed on to the customer.[6]

Text of ordinances: Kaua'i, Maui

[1] See Kauai Plastic Bag Ordinance 885 at http://www.kauai.gov/BagOrdinance

[2] See Maui’s Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance 3587 at http://www.co.maui.hi.us/index.aspx?NID=1688

[3] Id.; see U.S. EPA applauds Maui and Kauai for decision to ban plastic shopping bags, EPA press release, January 27, 2011, at http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/93f5831f40fc943685257359003f5346/c842aced0f07bfde8525782500657324!OpenDocument

[4] See Hawaiian counties ban plastic bags, UPI.com, January 28, 2011, at http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2011/01/28/Hawaiian-counties-ban-plastic-bags/UPI-70821296225031/

[5] For information on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, see http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/patch.html

[6] See Plastic (Bagless), The Maui News, January 10, 2011, at  http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/544876/Plastic-Bagless.html?nav=10

UncategorizedJennie Romer