Is Hawaii’s Plastic Bag Ban Effective?

Photo Credit: Treehugger

Although there have been a number of city-level bans on plastic bags in the United States, Hawaii is the first state to pass a statewide law regarding the issue. Well, sort of…

Effective July 1, 2015, a ban will take place on all non-recyclable paper bags and all non-biodegradable plastic bags at store checkout counters. While this is a great step, the numerous exceptions to this law reduce the positive impact it could have on the environment.

Here are a few of the exemptions:

  • Bags used by customers inside a business to package loose items like fruit, vegetables, ground coffee, grains, etc..
  • Bags used to contain or wrap frozen foods, beverages, or baked goods
  • Bags provided by pharmacists to contain prescription medications
  • Newspaper bags for home delivery
  • Door hanger bags
  • Laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bags
  • Bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or yard waste bags
  • Bags used to contain live animals at pet stores
  • Bags used to transport caustic chemicals sold at retail levels, including pesticides and drain-cleaning chemicals, provided that the exemption is limited to one bag per customer

Some of these exemptions make sense to me, like the trash bags, but not all of them are logical. Why can’t prescriptions be provided in a paper bag, for instance? My pharmacy does that and I’ve never had a problem with it.

Large retail chains like Kroger and Safeway didn’t introduce the plastic bag until the early 1980s. This means that before the plastic bag was introduced, people dealt with problems like transporting freezer goods, beverages, baked goods, prescriptions, and more using paper bags or reusable bags.

A quarter of the world’s countries have restricted or completely banned plastic bag use. I assume that they have found alternatives. When I studied abroad in Italy a few years ago, I got used to carrying around a canvas tote bag when I wanted to go shopping and it wasn’t too difficult.

Do you think the exemptions to Hawaii’s plastic bag ban make sense?

You can read more on Hawaii’s ban here. You can read more about plastic shopping bags here.

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