Mayor Kirk Caldwell plans to sign Bill 38 into law on Thursday, which amends a ban on plastic and non-recyclable paper check-out bags which passed in 2012 and is set to take effect in July 2015.

The amendment adds “biodegradable” plastic bags to the ban because of a dispute over what this entails exactly — there isn’t an industry standard that defines “biodegradable,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office. Instead, the bill allows certified compostable bags, which carry a logo approved by the Biodegradable Products Institute.

Honolulu is the only county left in Hawaii that has yet to implement a ban on plastic grocery bags, which get washed out into the ocean and can harm marine life.

The mayor’s office provided this break-down of what will be allowed and not allowed on Oahu starting July 1, 2015:

plastic bag on reef

A plastic bag caught on a reef.


When the law goes into effect on July 1 next year, regular plastic checkout bags will be banned, but all these options will remain:

·         Reusable bags;

·         Compostable plastic bags;

·         Recyclable paper bags.


The law also contains these exemptions: 

·         Bags used inside the business to package loose items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, candy, or small hardware items;

·         Bags used to contain frozen foods, meat or fish, flowers or plants;

·         Bags used by pharmacists for medications;

·         Newspaper bags;

·         Laundry and dry cleaning bags;

·         Bags sold in packages for garbage, pet waste and yard waste;

·         Bags from pet stores;

·         Bags to contain chemicals.


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