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Thursday, May 22, 2014
Should Honolulu Ban Biodegradable Bags?
By Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine @ 10:34 PM :: 6242 Views :: Honolulu County, Environment, Small Business

From Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine

In 2012, the Honolulu City Council passed and Mayor Carlisle subsequently approved Ordinance 12-8. This law prohibits businesses from providing single-use, non-biodegradable plastic bags and non-recyclable paper bags to their customers at the point of sale for the purpose of transporting groceries or other merchandise effective July 1, 2015.

The city’s Department of Environmental Services, responsible for implementing and enforcing the law, reported that it has been unable to identify a clear and reliable industry standard that meets the definition of “biodegradable” plastic bag in Ordinance 12-8.

The Honolulu City Council’s Committee on Public Works and Sustainability held a hearing yesterday to discuss a proposal to expand the existing ban to include biodegradable bags as they have been found to contain plastic that does not deteriorate. Similar bans were implemented throughout Mau‘i since January 11, 2011, and on Hawai‘i island since January 17, 2013.

This does not include bags used by customers inside a store to package fruits and vegetables, bags used to protect newspapers, bags to protect your dry cleaning and several other exceptions.

In the Committee on Public Works and Sustainability hearing, I expressed concern with a proposed change of the effective date from January 1, 2016 to July 1, 2015 because of the unforeseen consequences it might have on many of our businesses that purchased biodegradable bags in bulk to comply with the current ban.

The Committee deferred further action on the bill so environmental and business advocates can work together and determine a feasible date to implement the proposed full ban.

While I recognize the inherent need to protect our fragile marine ecosystems by considering this proposal to expand the existing ban on plastic bags, we must also evaluate the economic costs on businesses and on us, their consumers.

Let me know what you think about the proposal to extend the ban by calling (808) 768-5001 or send an e-mail to I look forward to reading your thoughts and opinions on Bill 38 and other legislative proposals pending before the City Council.


Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine


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