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Hawaii Becomes First US State to Ban Plastic Bags

Thanks to the efforts of a broad-based grassroots movement, on January 17th Hawaii will be the first in the USA to ban plastic bags statewide.


If you think canvas or string shopping bags are a thing of the distant past, think again. As of January 17,  the state of Hawaii will ban plastic bags at grocery stores, restaurants and retailers. The change goes into effect in all four of Hawaii’s populated counties, and follows a year where consumers have been paying for plastic bags from retailers in Oahu.


Sierra Club representative Robert Harris, director of the organization’s Hawaii chapter, feels that Hawaiians are culturally prepared for such a move. “Being a marine state, perhaps, we are exposed more directly to the impacts of plastic pollution and the damage it does to the environment,” he said, adding, “People in Hawaii are more likely to be in the water or in the outdoors and see the modern day tumbleweed – plastic bags – in the environment.” 



The Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group which seeks to protect ocean habitats, sees support for the measure as stemming from a broad, grassroots action.  The movement bypassed the state legislature and pushed all four County Councils to enact concurrent bans. 


After January 17, plastic bags will only be available for fish, meat, fresh produce, and bulk items such as nuts or grains. In the meantime, the Surfrider Foundation sees the plastic bag ban as just a first step, noting that if Hawaii enacts a fee for paper bags, this move will further reduce the use of disposable products.


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