Plastic Bag Ban Law Goes Into Effect Thursday

January 16, 2013, 4:55 PM HST (Updated January 17, 2013, 4:45 PM)

Thursday marks the beginning of the enactment of a new law that prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags by Big Island retailers.

Actually, the plastic bag ban won’t take full effect for 12 months as the county’s Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance allows retailers a year to continue providing the bags as long as they charge a fee for each one.

The law does not dictate the size of the fee which will be determined by retailers, who will keep that revenue.

However, according to the county, many stores have already chosen to use paper bags – which are not affected by the ban – instead of plastic and are encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags.

“One high quality reusable bag can replace hundreds of single-use plastic bags over its lifetime,” the county Department of Environmental Management said in a statement issued today. “In the long term, the cost of a reusable bag can be lower than the cost of the single-use plastic bags it replaces.”

The law passed by the Hawaii County Council exempts plastic bags without handles used for retail items such as meat, produce, bulk food items, garments and prescription drugs.

Non-profit organizations and non-incorporated community booster organizations are exempt from the law.


Hawaii County is joining the state’s other counties in banning the bags. Similar initiatives, driven by concerns over the effect of the bags on the environment, are also in place in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., as well as in parts of Mexico, Germany, Italy and China, the county said.

Once the ban takes full effect on Jan. 17, 2014, any retailers still providing the bags will be issued a warning letter. A second violation results in a civil fine of $250 per day. The fine doubles with a third violation and a fourth violation will result in a fine of $1,000 per day.

For additional information, including a copy of the ordinance and rules, visit or contact the Department of Environmental Management’s Solid Waste and Recycling Offices at or 961-8270.



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