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Bring Your Own Bag Hawaiʻi! Celebrate and Support the July 1 Oʻahu Plastic Bag Ban

June 30, 2015
By: Rachel Harvey, Plastic Free Hawaiʻi Program Manager

The Honolulu City and County ban on single-use plastic bags at check out finally goes into effect on July 1, 2015. This will make Hawaiʻi the first state with an implemented bag ban across all counties. An amazing feat and a hard fought journey!

For more than 5 years, a coalition of Rise Above Plastics supporters have diligently written and delivered testimony, collected data, rallied support, watched, and waited. Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation extends a heartfelt mahalo and congratulations to the many individuals and groups who tirelessly worked toward this day including Surfrider Foundation Oʻahu Chapter, Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi, B.E.A.C.H., Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi, Styrophobia, and The Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi, among others. We also applaud the KHF volunteers who have helped us give away over 23,000 free and reusable PFH bags since January 2014, promoting the practice of bringing your own bag.

For the full text version of the bill and more information visit opala.org. We have talked before about the many reasons to bring your own bag. That is not today’s topic.

Rather as we celebrate, this is a continued call to action. The journey toward a Plastic Free Hawaiʻi is not over, especially for Oʻahu. The bag ban was not unanimously popular among consumers nor retailers. We should empathize that this can potentially be a hard transition for some business owners and shoppers. Further, some retailers will opt to provide paper bags, compostable bags, or thicker plastic bags not covered by the ordinance.

Thus your continued support and action are vital! Most importantly, your positive encouragement of community members and retailers will only help in the transition. This July bring your own bags with pride. Share extra reusable bags with your neighbors and strangers if you can. Thank others you see bringing their own bags. Strike up conversations that forward solutions not blame. Take time to thank retailers who are complying with the bag ban. Share your excitement by talking to managers and check out staff. Encourage them to avoid providing paper bags or thicker plastic bags and promote a bring your own policy. (This will save the retailer money too.)

Transitioning to bringing your own bag may seem like a huge inconvenience or inconsequential solution for some naysayers. But we know it will make a difference! The bag ordinance will reduce our consumption of a primarily single-use, petroleum-based item, reduce the waste we ship to and generate on island, help to protect our wildlife and natural resources, and be a catalyst for more sustainable practices by shoppers and retailers alike.

In the next year, the Rise Above Plastics Coalition  is continuing to work on legislation concerning pollution, styrofoam, and microbeads in Hawaiʻi and beyond. Learn more and offer your support for local initiatives here … and remember to bring you own bag to the store!