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Oahu Plastic Bag Ban: How’s It Going So Far?

It’s now been just over a month since the City and County of Honolulu enacted the plastic bag ban, and what you’re seeing above is exactly what I and others that recognize the loophole in this law were afraid would cause: more non-compostable plastic in the rubbish cans than ever before! As in double the thickness of non-compostable “non-reusable” plastic bags being thrown away. And no, I’m not singling out Don Quijote by using that photo (I LOVE that store!), their bag just so happened to be what was there at this public rubbish can at the moment.

Personally, I’ve been responsible with the new ban, reusing whatever “resuable” plastic bags  I purchase at the checkout, which usually are 10 cents each.

However I’m sure there’s folks who still aren’t comfortable or used to the idea of bringing their reusable plastic bags back with them to the store.

I actually really like the thicker, larger reusable plastic bags, as they hold more heavy things, allowing me to stuff more in less bags that I need to carry out of my car and hold in the elevator.

What’s interesting is, one time recently I was at the checkout at the Don Quijote on Kaheka, and the cashier bagging my groceries kept stuffing each reusable bag I had to the RIM, and I was like, “OK, you can use another bag, that’s enough in there”. To which she smiled as if relieved, telling me how so many customers she deals with are very hesitant in purchasing any more reusable plastic bags for 10 cents each than absolutely, absolutely necessary. Grinding another 10 cent reusable bag out of them is like twisting their arm. I’m like, well if that’s the case, BRING YOUR REUSABLE BAGS BACK WITH YOU TO SHOP! HELLO!

Actually, more so than buying reusable plastic bags, I’ve also been making good use of my Reusable Eco Bags, which are the ones usually made of a more durable material such as fiber-reinforced plastic, or better yet cloth or canvas. Many local retailers offer these even more reusable-encouraging “Eco Bags” for about $1 to $2 each, which surely holds more value to the consumers buying them, hence encouraging reuse.

Which is worth noting should really be the only option other than compostable paper bags, with reusable and “compostable” plastic bags not even being an option. However I understand from a retailers perspective the need to have bagging options for the customers, otherwise it could affect the bottom line at the checkouts. Still, if there’s an urgent need to protect the environment, which there is, shouldn’t EVERYONE make the sacrifice? Anyways, I’m not going to sit here all day and make a debate over it.

That said, I keep both the reusable Eco Bags and reusable plastic bags folded up in the back of my car and TRY to remember to bring them into the store with me. However there are times when I still forget and have to go back out to my car to get them. I’ll eventually make it a routine habit to remember my reusable bags whenever I go shopping. Which I might note, I tend to use a shopping basket vs. shopping cart, as I just hate pushing carts around a store.

The hard part is for folks on foot, as who wants to carry reusable bags with them while walking around? They’re the ones (I myself walk a lot too) usually forced to either buy a reusable bag, settle for the super thin “compostable” plastic bags (usually free), settle for the “junk” paper bags (hard to hold while walking, being they can tear and often don’t have handles), or just won’t buy that many things that require a bag.

What I really can’t wait to see are factual statistics from our local landfills come next July, and whether or not the plastic bag ban really did reduce how much non-compostable plastic bags — whether reusable or not — are landing in there. If it gets worse, the only solution may be to ban all plastic bags.

For more information, please visit:
City & County of Honolulu (Oahu) Plastic Bag Ban – Opala.org
Loophole undermines Hawaii Plastic Bag Ban – Huffington Post

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22 thoughts on “Oahu Plastic Bag Ban: How’s It Going So Far?

  • August 3, 2015 at 12:14 pm
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    Food land on Sunday only gives you a free reusable bag.

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  • August 3, 2015 at 12:36 pm
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    This is harsh but I think all plastic bags should be banned! You’re right about the loopholes; I saw the double plastic bags at Long’s the other day and I’m like, what’s the point! People are just going to throw away these double plastic bags. It’s hard to change people’s behavior, so just rip off the bandaid and ban all plastic. I’ve been using fabric reusable bags for groceries and even reusable mesh mags for produce for years and it’s really not that hard to get used to!

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    • August 9, 2015 at 8:06 am
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      I hope you are cleaning those reusable bags after you use it.

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      • August 9, 2015 at 10:30 am
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        barbara,

        OMG, from  your other comment about when you were a cashier and had to deal with customers reusing GROSS old bags with hair and stuff, I never even thought about that! Yikes!

        It’s funny you mention that, as now when I bring in my reusable bags to the checkout counter, I’m VERY conscientious of its appearance, making sure it’s clean and not all wrinkled, not only as an impression to the cashier, but also the folks standing behind me in line! Ha ha!

        My favorite eco bag to use is still Foodland’s SPAM Musubi bag. Every time I bust that one out, no matter which store, the cashier and folks behind me in line always compliment me on it, “that’s such a cool bag!”

        Reply
  • August 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm
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    We’ve had the plastic bag “ban” here on Maui for some time now and when the ban started, I can’t remember any retailers offering the “thicker” plastic bags to reuse.  All of them were offering the reusable mesh or canvas bags.  Since then, I’ve come across at least one retailer that uses a thicker plastic bag, Hot Topic, but other than that, you either bring your own bag or you get a paper bag.  And you’re not charged for it either.  I agree that they should close the loophole.  No plastic bags at all.  If the neighbor islands can do it, so can Oahu!  Ha!

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    • August 3, 2015 at 3:42 pm
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      @ David – Yeah, I remember when I was up in Maui several years ago, the plastic bag ban was already in effect there, and all Foodland and Times in Kihei had to offer were either paper bags, or the purchase of their cloth Eco Bags, which were $2 each at the time. But NO plastic bag option. Which I think it should be that way here, too.

      @ Doris – I agree about (eventually) banning ALL plastic bags. However, again, the ones I feel for are pedestrians who don’t have the luxury of a car to store their eco bags when they go shopping. Being a guy not carrying a purse, I can’t see stuffing any type of reusable bags in my pants pocket as a pedestrian consumer, nor would I care to carry it around empty. Thus, the only option I’d have if all plastic bags were banned, is to purchase one of the more expensive Eco Bags every time I shop. Or opt for a paper bag and hope I make it home walking a city block without it ripping on me, both hands full carrying one bag, no less.

      @ Ken – I take it that’s one free plastic reusable bag, not Foodland’s more sturdy cloth eco bag, correct?

      I was just in Don Quijote earlier today and asked the security to give a general estimate how many customers he’s observed that bring in reusable bags, to which he gave a rather generous 80% are reusing their bags. However I also asked the cashier at checkout the same question, and she gave a more conservative 30% to 40% of customers she notices are using their own reusable bags.

      What’s interesting is, ever since the ban took effect last month, I notice whenever I show up at checkout with my own reusable bags, the cashier always commends me for it, like it’s still a rare, yet appreciated, novel gesture.  Exact thing happened to me yet again today at DQ.

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      • August 3, 2015 at 5:11 pm
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        Pomai,
         
        You said; “I take it that’s one free plastic reusable bag, not Foodland’s more sturdy cloth eco bag, correct?” and I have to say how wrong you are!! Sunday’s only Foodland is giving out their new cloth eco bag with the Hawaiian food pyramid on it and all the foods we eat in Hawaii. Would I send you shopping for a free plastic bag if you are complaining about plastic bags? In Foodland most cashers commend me for bring in my own Foodland bag but Foodland gives a 10 cent discount for the bringing your own bag.
         
        I was shopping at Tamura’s Market Kalaeloa and they use to have the flimsy plastic bags but now they have a very thick reusable bag.

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        • August 3, 2015 at 5:32 pm
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          Ken,

          Actually, I’m not complaining about reusable plastic bags, just weighing in the pros and cons, and the loophole in the law, as well as the entire purpose, which is to help save the environment.

          It’s funny you mention bringing in your own Foodland reusable bag to Foodland, as just today I brought in two Times Supermarket reuseable plastic bags to use for shopping at Don Quijote… and I felt kind of guilty doing that! Traitor! Heretic! LOL!!!!  The cashier actually still commended me for bringing in my own bags, taking no notice that it was from a competitor’s store. Ha-ha!

          Which then I have to ask: does Foodland only give you the 10 cent discount if it’s THEIR bag, or can it be any bag? You know, I never went looking at the various local retailers’ specific policies on reusable bags. I just know I’m being charged 10 cents for ones I need to purchase.

          Like Tamura’s, I’m not sure if they’re still doing, but when the bag policy first took effect, the 7-Eleven in Waikiki were using the same (free) compostable plastic bags, those super thin ones that tear very easily, and supposedly begin  decomposing from the moment they’re manufactured. I think those are HORRID! Just charge the 10 cents for the good plastic bag!

          Actually, many retailers are taking a loss charging only 10 cents for the reusable plastic bags, as depending how much volume they buy, their cost per bag can be more than double that. But  it’s worth the loss to provide customer convenience. In turn, you may notice retail prices across the board jump slightly to compensate, as if we haven’t seen that already from other commerce factors (fuel costs, extreme weather, supply and demand, etc.).

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          • August 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm
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            Pomai,
             
            I don’t like the loopholes in the law either but this is Oahu which gets the most tourists somewhere between 80,000 and 87,000 per day according to the Hawaii Tourist Authority. I think the law will be slowly tightened up to eliminate the loopholes. I have a lot of cloth eco bags from all the stores I shop at and keep them in my vehicle along with a free insulated collapsible cooler from my bank for frozen foods. Foodland gives “Maikai” members (I had accumulated 2-free turkeys for Christmas last year) 10 cents discount or Hawaiian Air miles for bringing your own bag into the store for shopping. I never tried bringing a Target or a Costco cloth eco bag into Foodland to bag my groceries.
             
            I know I got your interest about Foodland “Maikai” members which sign up is by giving your Hawaii  telephone number and then receive a bar code scanner keychain fob card that identifies you as a “Maikai” member. Depending on your shopping habits as a “Maikai” member you get weekly discounted prices on select items. You also accrue points for specials like a free turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas and bonus “Maikai My Rewards” certificates during the year good for 5% off entire grocery purchase, free product of the week or 200 Hawaiian Airlines Miles.
             
            Foodland also has R Fields Wine Company inside certain select stores which is Hawaii’s premier gourmet food, wine and cigar destination having the very best world-wide cheese selections, charcuterie items plus New York Boar’s Head full product line selection and Hawaiian grown fresh herbs available daily include Nalo greens, arugula, Big Island tomatoes, basil, dill, and much more. Foodland chain also includes Snack N’ Save, Malama Market and Food Pantry.

          • August 4, 2015 at 7:41 am
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            Ken,

            The Foodland Farms location in Aina Haina Shopping Center has a prominent R. Field Deli and wine collection as you mentioned. In fact, speaking of gourmet, next week Tuesday, August 11th, Foodland Farms Aina Haina will be holding a “Eat Local” Tasting event from 5 to 7pm, featuring demonstrations and tastings by Chef Roy Yamaguchi, Keoni Chang (Foodland’s Executive Chef), Mark Noguchi and Colin Hazama. The event is open and free to the public.

    • December 14, 2015 at 12:04 pm
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      The difference between Oahu and the outer islands is that we have the capability to burn plastic–including plastic bags–into renewable energy!  So a lot of these plastic bags don’t wind up in the landfills on Oahu.  That’s why I never could understand this law.  I think the only reason it was passed on Oahu was to punish the people who littered the island with plastic bags instead of throwing them away in a trash can.  But isn’t there a law where you get fined for littering???  Oahu should be more concerned with people like that than stores handing out thicker plastic bags.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2015 at 4:16 pm
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    My county has had a plastic bag ban since 2012 or so. It’s pretty strict:no bags for takeout, even at subway. They charge.05 per bag if you don’t use reusable ones. It works out just fine as far as I’m concerned. When I don’t remember to bring in my carrier bags, I’ll get one of the .10 bags. I try not to do that often. Sometimes I’ll just check out, put everything in my cart and bag when I get to the car.

    For people who walk, or have reasons why durable bags are otherwise inconvenient, a mesh bag, or a light cotton tote-style w/o a cardboard bottom (like they have at Whole Foods) can be folded up really carefully and rubber banded so that it’s a tiny thin square, fine for a back pocket or probably a wallet. I always keep one at the bottom of my purse; I always forget to use it.

    Plastic bags are bad in general, but tragic for marine life, so I don’t mind a bit. Now if they could only do something about those murderous 6-pack plastic holder things.

    Just a aside, I remember in England about 10 years ago, they had a pretty genius solution to baggage waste. You paid a small deposit for a plastic crate or two, and the shopping carts had slots for the crates, as opposed to regular carts. You scanned your groceries as you went along, putting them in your crate, then when you were done, you’d put your crate(s) in your car and went home. Simple.

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    • August 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm
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      h,

      When you say plastic bag ban in your county, is it like ours right now, where you can still get a plastic bag, but they charge you for it? Or are absolutely NO plastic bags allowed, and they’re charging you for a bag made of paper or other biodegradable material?

      I’m curious about this cotton tote bag that folds up very compact you mentioned, but don’t know what do Google for. Can you post a link to one?

      And yes, I agree about the six-pack holder rings, and very surprised they’re still allowed. They could easily make something out of biodegradable materials to replace that horrid plastic ring 6-pack holder that kills marine life unnecessarily if it gets out there.

      Reply
  • August 4, 2015 at 3:39 am
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    My mom reused plastic bags.  Instead of buy at time ziploc bags she use plastic

    for many things.   I on other hand keep the color ones and cut it up and glue

    together to make kites.  They really fly well at the beach where there is good

    wind out there.

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    • August 4, 2015 at 7:35 am
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      Amy,

      Funny you mention using plastic shopping bags for making kites — assuming when you were a kid, as actually, plastic shopping bags never came around until IIRC the late 70s, when I was still a little kid. Prior to that, it was strictly paper bags. And they were the sturdy type (like Whole Foods, except no handles), not the flimsy ones some places have now.

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      • August 4, 2015 at 11:13 am
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        Nope, it was plastic bags and chopsticks and super glue.  Since Chinese

        like making kites.  My cousins also in San Francisco and flew their at

        Ocean Beach.

         

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  • August 4, 2015 at 8:32 pm
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    I love the Foodland tote bags. I actually requested some for my birthday which was quite awhile before the plastic bag ban became a reality. I received the Musubi, the Poke Bowl, and the You Know You Local Wen (Version 1 – pretty hypocritical since I am from Mainland, oops). I even got a Poke Bowl beach towel to match!

    Anyway, I usually shop at Times Kahala and Times Kaimuki and bring those bags all the time. I used to feel self-conscious but actually the cashiers/baggers have often said that they like those bags too! And I am getting better at remembering my bags since the ban started, even though it turns out there are plenty loopholes, as you say. Some folks in Kaimuki actually nailed a homemade sign on a telephone pole on Sierra Dr. that says “No fo’get da reusable bags!” and that helps too – that lots of us are trying to remember together.

    About the problem of people who don’t drive carrying bags – tightly folded thick plastic or cloth bags can fit easily in the pocket of most bags. I used to live Berlin where most people got around by public transit (my grocery store didn’t even have a parking lot). The law there was that you could sell heavy plastic bags for $0.20 and reusable cloth ones for $1.00. I would say the majority of people brought their own bags. And those cloth bags were made of light but strong cotton and even more durable than the typical American reusable bags (like the Foodland bags)..

    The best reusable bag I have seen is Kokua market’s. It is a large, sturdy cotton canvas bag with a handsome red logo – I think it will last 20 years! Each member got one for free.

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    • August 5, 2015 at 4:41 am
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      Leslie,

      When the (very cool) SPAM Musubi Eco Bags first came out several years ago, the cashiers at Foodland told me they were limited editions, so I bought a bunch of them as keepsakes, and also did a giveaway on this blog, which turned out very popular. Long story short, apparently they were so popular, not only are they still around, but Foodland WENT off on those local designs, coming out with all kinds of other ones as you mentioned. Fun stuff for sure! Foodland definitely has a GREAT marketing team and graphic artists (that’s pretty much the type of work I do as well for my day job).

      I have to admit, it feels kinda’ “hobo” walking in with reusable plastic bags, however I just remind myself I’m being responsible. As a guy, I kinda’ rather carry the plastic ones more, only because they fold up more compact in my hands, especially considering I’m not a shopping cart shopper, where I can just toss the cloth type Eco Bags in there.

      Good idea about the reminder sign you mentioned on Sierra Drive. I should make (a very simple) one and set it on my dashboard: “SHOPPING BAGS?”.

      You know, I’ve heard of Kokua Market (and seen their cool eco bags), yet never been there yet. I’ll have to hit it soon!

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      • August 5, 2015 at 9:37 am
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        Speaking of Foodland’s bag, I recently saw an island-specific bag just for Maui at my local Foodland.  Names of Maui towns and I think pictures of Maui attractions.  I’m sure each island must have its own island-specific bag.

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  • August 9, 2015 at 7:58 am
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    You know its a joke as far as retailers go. Most aren’t offering anything except a bag to purchase.

    Safeway bless them will give you a paper bag, some will not give you anything. I have seen people walking out with grocery in hand. A wonderful sight to the landscape to see bruddah walking out of the market with a pack of ribs in one hand and vegetables on top of it and beer in the other hand. Another store , I seen people walking out with clothing not in any bag. I had to laugh . I asked them was there a discount for them not giving you a bag ? no … they responded.

    the price of my groceries have not gone down. In sight of how gross and dirty these reusable bags get no one has educated the public on how to use it and cross contamination. Like cheapy get a bag for meat another for dry goods and another or produce.

    I hate to think of it. I am glad I am no longer a cashier I remember the save our land people who brought reusable bags,  gross bags from home .. with pet hair. smelly bags which I had to pack.  etc.  ugh.

    I was in California when they started the ban every retailer I went to gave a paper bag.

    Bed bath and beyond? you gotta buy a bag on Oahu in California they have bags.  I spent almost 500 in that store I will never go again.

    To me retailers are using the ban to their advantage. no need customer service anymore.

     

     

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    • August 9, 2015 at 10:15 am
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      Barbara,

      What do you mean by retailers are using the ban to their advantage, not needing customer service anymore? I’ve spoken with a bunch of cashiers since the ban started, and most have said it’s been an absolutely nightmare from a cashier’s perspective, especially for grocery stores. Some customers don’t even read the news and weren’t aware of the ban when it started, and had s#it-fits when they were told they had to pay 10cents each for their “reusable” plastic bags. And the customers still throw a fit when the cashiers need to use another new “reusable” plastic bag to fit all their merchandise. Which that whole scenario is utterly ridiculous from EVERY angle. It IS getting better as folks are getting used to it (including myself), but still.

      In defense of the retailers, keep in mind that most of them are likely taking a loss on not just the 10 cent “reusable” plastic bags they feel “obligated” to offer their customers, but also the meager $1.00 they’re charging for cloth “eco” bags. On top of that, there’s a “shrinkage” factor with customers bringing in their own bags (whatever type it is), as now people can “stash” stuff if they wanted to in their own bags. Talk to any supermarket security guard, and trust me, they’ve tell you they’ve seen it all.

      You brought up great points about the seeing people walking out with NO bags, carrying their merchandise in hand, yet that’s clearly not practical if you’re doing a large amount of grocery shopping, especially for a business or large family. The grocery stores should start doing what Costco and Sam’s have been doing since day one, which is provide the empty boxes from the merchandise at the front as carrying vessels for their merchandise. NO BRAINER!

      Again, personally I think allowing these “reusable” plastic bags totally negates the primary intent of protecting the environment, and hope it’s just the first step (of two) in helping retailers — particularly supermarkets — go to total elimination of plastic bags.

      Reply

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