Oahu businesses prepare as plastic bag ban approaches

(Via KHON)

Ready or not, Oahu’s plastic bag ban starts next Wednesday, July 1.

Honolulu is the last county in the state to ban plastic bags and the city says there will be no grace period.

The change is a major transition for many retailers, especially small business owners.

At the People’s Open Market on Fort Street, those soon to be banned plastic bags fly off the shelves with nearly every purchase. Business owner Thip Nguyen says she hands out as many as 150 bags in one day.

So what’s her plan come July 1? “I’m talking to a couple of vendors right now, so they’re looking into it,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll get it on time. Within two weeks they said they’ll be able to.”

Two weeks will be too late, but Nguyen says she hopes to get reusable bags in time.

Store owner Nathan Yuen is still trying to figure out how to offset the cost of having to spend 10 cents more per bag.

“(I will) probably have to compensate because of the margins,” he said. “The margins might have to go higher on individual items or something.”

Island Plastic Bags is the largest manufacturer in the state. According to its owner, the company still gets about 10-15 calls a day from business owners who aren’t quite sure what they’re supposed to do.

Those who waited this long to order their bags won’t be able to get customized bags with store logos, but Island Plastic Bags operations manager Jian Yang says they still have plenty of plain bags that will be allowed once the ban starts.

The rules for the ban are different from other counties. Some include restaurants in the ban while Oahu does not.

The starting fines also vary from $100 a day on Oahu and up to $500 a day on Maui, and all max out at a thousand dollars a day for repeat offenders:

  • Kauai: $250-$1,000 per day
  • Maui: $500-$1,000 per day
  • Oahu: $100-$1,000 per day
  • Hawaii Island: Written warning, $1,000 per day

Some Oahu business owners are not happy only the retailers are being forced to comply whereas restaurants are not.

“I think it is (unfair), because the reason why we’re doing this should be everybody doing it, if we’re saving the environment,” Yuen said.

Kauai and Maui were the first to ban plastic bags four years ago.

Officials say violators were given warnings and later complied. No businesses have been fined as of yet.

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