City council unanimously approves expanded plastic bag ban

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Honolulu City Council approved a bill that would ban stores from providing any plastic bags, even ones that are considered reusable or biodegradable, starting in 2020.

Changes were made after the measure was sent back to committee in June.

The approved version of Bill 59 will allow businesses to charge at least 15 cents for a reusable bag, compostable plastic bag, or recyclable paper bag starting July 1, 2018.

Then as of Jan. 1, 2020, no plastic bags will be allowed at all, including compostable bags or bags less than 10 mils in thickness.

There would still be exceptions. The ban would not apply to bags used to carry produce or meat, prepared foods or bakery goods, newspapers, or dry cleaning.

It still needs to be approved by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and signed into law.

Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga says all testimony received supported this version of the bill, including testimony from affected businesses.

The next step, Fukunaga says, will be to focus on enforcement to keep plastic bags off the island’s parks and beaches.

Plans are in the works to introduce a separate measure that would establish an environmental steward program to allow youth or environmental groups to identify and report violators of the city’s littering ordinance.

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