Reusable bags at a Kauai grocery store. (Photo by Dennis Fujimoto. Used by permission of The Garden Island newspaper.)

A ban on the distribution of plastic bags at all retail establishments in Kauai and Maui counties went into effect January 11 (Maui County includes the islands of Lanai and Molokai). Distribution of plastic bags at check out stands, cash registers, points of sale and points of departure is no longer legal. Businesses will provide recyclable paper bags or reusable bags for purchases, in accordance with the Plastic Bag Reduction and Prohibition Law.

Plastic bags provided for produce, bulk food, or meat, within a grocery store, supermarket, produce or meat market are not included in the ban.

As you can imagine, some folks are upset. An article in The Garden Island newspaper reflects this discontent. Martin de Bergerac of Houston, Texas, said he loves visiting Kauai but is disappointed about the plastic bag law. “Are there not recycling plants to effectively deal with plastic bags? I feel this decision really should be reevaluated for the benefit of the numerous visitors who support day-to-day life on Kauai.”

Kauai is a very small island and we do our best when it comes to recycling. But, casting this large net will do a better job of preserving our islands. These bags find their way into our oceans where marine life mistake it for food or, they become entangled in the debris. Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags a year and recyle only 0.6 percent according to The Garden Island article.

Kauai County’s website states, “The world’s great garbage patch’ can be found floating between Hawaii and San Francisco. This garbage patch is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and thousands of pounds of our discarded trash, mostly plastics.”

Local businesses are ready for the change. Outrigger Hotels provide reusable Eco Tote bags to their guests, Big Save supermarkets switched to recyclable paper bags and, Walmart will sell reusable shopping bags at 25 cents each.

I suggest buying a nice tote with a Hawaiian print when you arrive, they are available for purchase at many souvenir shops, and keep it in your rental car. That way, you will have a bag for your purchases, a way to carry them home and a practical memento.


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