Hawaii Bans Plastic Bags

"This Is Groundbreaking," Honolulu Mayor Pete Carlisle Told MSNBC

Hawaii Bans Plastic BagsFollowing a vote of approval by Honolulu County legislators, Hawaii has become the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of plastic bags by retailers. By 2015, all four of Hawaii's counties – Kauai, Maui, Hawaii and Honolulu – will be enforcing individual bans, which restrict both non-biodegradable plastic bags and paper bags that aren't at least 40% recycled. "This is groundbreaking," Honolulu Mayor Pete Carlisle told MSNBC. "Retailers will be able to use up their inventory of bags and make arrangements to educate the public on the importance of bringing their own bag."

Officially, the plastic bag ban in Hawaii is not a statewide law, but the result of ordinances in each of Hawaii's counties. Honolulu County was the last locale without a ban, but lawmakers passed a bill this month after extensive lobbying from environmentalists. A plastic bag ban in Hawaii County will take effect in January of next year. Kauai and Maui counties already have bans in place. As in other areas in the U.S. where similar legislation has been passed, exceptions to the Hawaii bans include plastic bags for dry-cleaning, live fish and drug prescriptions.

The passage of the Honolulu ban comes after recent attempts to create a statewide ban in Hawaii failed. The first attempt in the U.S. to pass a statewide plastic bag ban ended unsuccessfully in California in 2010. However, across the U.S., 74 communities have established or have voted to enact plastic bag bans – the vast majority of them in California. The Los Angeles City Council will be next to vote on a ban, which could soon phase out both plastic and paper bags at supermarkets. In April, Sea World also announced that it will end the sale of plastic shopping bags at its 10 theme parks by next year.