City council tables changes to Oahu’s plastic bag ban

The Honolulu City Council has decided it needs more time to decide whether to strengthen Oahu’s plastic bag ban.

Bill 59 would have banned stores from using all kinds of plastic bags, even ones considered reusable or biodegradable, starting in 2020.

The bill would have also required retailers to charge ten cents for every recyclable paper bag handed out starting next year.

The 5-4 vote sends the bill back to a council committee, despite support from Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

“We see them in our parks. We see them blowing in our streets. We see them in the Ala Wai Canal,” Caldwell previously said. “Let’s do what our other sister counties do, and let’s get on with something we should have done in 2015.”

The council’s decision was a big blow to environmental groups that hoped to finally close what they call a loophole in the law.

“It’s just kind of sad because we want to believe in our politicians. We want to be believe that the people have an effect on policies, but tonight was just a clear example of them not doing their job and not listening to their constituents,” said Stuart Coleman, Surfrider Foundation.

Changing the bag ban isn’t completely off the table. One of the points council members wanted to discuss was its impact to businesses.

Restaurants would still be exempt from the new ban.

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