Honolulu mayor signs Oahu plastic bag ban changes into law

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed off on changes to Oahu’s plastic bag ban Thursday.

The new law, which takes effect July 2015, now includes biodegradable plastic bags in the ban, amending the original law passed in 2012, which did not ban any.

The changes, as defined in Bill 38, were made after concerns about the lack of an industry standard over the definition of a biodegradable bag.

“Biodegradable bags take a very, very long time to break down,” Caldwell said. “They’re not that great. Compostable bags are better. They break down quickly.”

The ban already provides exceptions for bags that are used to package loose items like fruits and vegetables, prepared foods and bakery goods, laundry, dry cleaning and even newspapers.

Customers can be provided with reusable bags, recyclable paper bags and “compostable plastic bags,” which applies to bags that meet current ASTM D6400 Standard Specifications for compostability and that is labeled with the Biodegradable Product Institute (“BPI”) logo.

Sec. 9-9.2 Ban on [non-biodegradable] plastic checkout bags and non-recyclable paper bags. 

Businesses shall be prohibited from providing [non-biodegradable] plastic checkout bags and non-recyclable paper bags to their customers at the point of sale for the purpose of transporting groceries or other merchandise. Nothing in this article shall preclude a business from making available to customers, with or without charge, at the point of sale: 1) [making] reusable [bags, bags made of biodegradable plastic] bags, compostable plastic bags, or recyclable paper bags [available for sale or without charge to customers at the point of sale] for the purpose of transporting groceries or other merchandise [such items]; or 2) non-recyclable paper bags to protect or transport prepared foods, beverages, or bakery goods.

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