New bill could delay Oahu’s plastic bag ban

You see them just about everywhere, at the grocery store and even at restaurants.

Starting in July 2015, Oahu businesses will no longer be allowed to offer non-biodegradable plastic bags to customers.

But a new bill at the Honolulu City Council wants to take it a step further by banning all plastic bags.

“We discovered through different conversations that there is no standard as to what is biodegradable or what is not. And in order for the city to enforce the law, there has to be a standard,” said Honolulu City Councilmember Breene Harimoto.

Councilmember Harimoto says The Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii, also known as B.E.A.C.H., brought this issue to his attention. The group believes all plastic bags are harmful to the environment.

“It’s very important to ban plastic bags because all species of sea turtle hatchlings, no matter what species, eat jellyfish when they’re younger and a plastic bag in the ocean can look like food to them,” said B.E.A.C.H. co-founder Suzanne Frazer.

The Department of Environmental Services is also on board with the bill and says it would help put Honolulu on the same page with other counties who have already banned plastic bags.

The new bill would ban all plastic bags including those that are biodegradable. We wanted to know how this would impact businesses, so we went to Wahoo’s Fish Taco to find out.

“What do you think about this bill?” KHON2 asked.

“In general, basically, I think it’s a good bill because you see a lot of plastic bags flying all over the place, getting everywhere,” said Michelle Kalau, kitchen manager at Wahoo’s Fish Taco. “There’s a bad side and a good side to it. I can’t have customers coming in buying 10 plates and then carrying it with their hands out the restaurant.”

“Do you think this is going to impact any of the businesses? How will they adjust to this bill if it does pass?” KHON2 asked.

“Well, it will certainly affect the businesses. That’s why we’re proposing to give them more time to prepare their stock,” Councilmember Harimoto said.

If the bill is passed, businesses with biodegradable bags would have until January 2016 to get rid of them.

Just to be clear, there are some exceptions to both bills. Plastic bags used for things like produce and meats, dry-cleaning, and even newspapers will still be allowed.

The bill will now go to first reading a the council’s next meeting, which is set for Wednesday.

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