Hawaii’s Poorly-Written Plastic Bag Ban Still Allows Plastic Bags

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

A loophole has been discovered in a plastic bag ban law Hawaii lawmakers touted as “historic,” which strangely allows plastic bags to be used despite the intentions of the prohibition.

The law was meant to ban all plastic bags, most especially those thin, flimsy bags so many grocery stores use to pack customers’s purchases in. The law, though, does provide for “reusable bags” to be used in place of the thinner, noncompostable bags that are often seen floating in the air or littering sidewalks.

The law that was touted by state lawmakers and environmentalists across the world, kicked in this year on July 1.

But, through a quirk in the rules, those reusable bags can be made of plastic—if only of a slightly heavier gauge—just like the bags that are supposed to have been banned.

The law defines reusable bags as “a bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse,” that is made of durable materials, “including plastic that is at least 2.25 mils thick.”

This exception to the rule has some environmentalists crying foul.

Chelsea Rochman, an environmental toxicologist at the University of California, Davis, told HuffingtonPost that the exception was “sneaky.”

“What’s interesting,” Rochman said, “is that they’re using a thicker plastic, made out of the same material [as the banned bags]. They really didn’t change to a safer alternative. They almost chose a worse alternative because they’ll persist in the environment longer.”

Critics also say that the heavier bags that are supposed to be reusable will likely be treated just like the old bags and thrown away after a single use. Many, they say, will end up floating in waters, flying in traffic wind eddies, and littering sidewalks just like the bags that lawmakers wanted banned.

Environmentalists are now calling for the law to be amended to also ban the heavier plastic bags.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.


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