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.


  1. Yah! I feel that helping our land and animals are a bit more important than plastic bags, I wish we had the ban in New York! ( maybe something to bring up to my congress women)

  2. GREAT!
    I'm all in favor for such a ban. It should be State-wide if it not already is. I've seen reports in the news over the last few days regarding this issue and couldn't believe what I saw happening on Maui and I'm sure here too! There were plastic bags strewn through trees, in fact, so much that it looked like the plastic shreds out-numbered it's leaves. It was so sad to see that happening.
    I admit there is a convenience to using such bags for carrying groceries home and lunch to work, however, we as people aren't aware of what happens after were through using these bags. I'm glad that this issue and the PRESS is making it visible. If we rely less on these bags, there would be less of a problem dealing with them in landfills and in our oceans where it does even greater damage, it's ruining our food supply! How ironic. 
    The best alternative to these bags are the re-usable bags which come in very sturdy, strong material. I own a few SAM's bags which are durable, and big enough to haul, yes HAUL, my Sam's club groceries. They're the best and we take them everywhere when we go shopping.  You gotta get some!

  3. I suggest all visitors and residents alike who don't like this change should remember that if we want to continue having a beautiful state and world this small sacrifice is well worth it.  No one wants to swim, snorkel, or surf with rubbish falling in their eyes.
    People think I'm nuts because I always buy those fundraiser reusable bags, got the pink komen, the Kahalu'u Elem. all the ones from our beautiful 'thinking green' hotels, bought longs bags when they were donating proceeds to feed the hungry, earned windward mall cooler bags as well. Really this change needs to be here and I for one can't wait until this gets expanded here. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. A proposal for a state-wide ban was unsuccessful so Maui and Kauai counties went ahead. There is still no ban on Hawaii island or Oahu.

  5. Your support is encouraging! It's funny how hard it is for some people to change. Yesterday, my husband went and got some take out and they had no bags! They have known for over a year and didn't get appropriate bags yet. He came home and set it all down on the kitchen counter and said "they didn't get bags." I looked down at our evening meal and said "It doesn't look like we really needed them anyway." The convenience of the bags is so insidious, we automatically think we need them for everything and we don't!

  6. That is really great. I commend this move by the Hawaiian. Just imagine the damages that plastics brought to our environment. This is also one effective way to promote tourism in the area. I love it.

  7. I think the ban on plastic bags is fantastic. I am so happy to hear it was passed on both Kauai and Maui.  It just makes sense to be less wasteful and do everything we can to protect our environment!

  8. I do agree and I hope this becomes global! everytime I hike Kalalau valley, surf, etc all I see is plstic littered all over the place it saddened me seeing tourists or sometimes even locals go "appreciate" nature and yet they leave their trash behind d;/

  9. My family and I just returned from Oahu. We packed our own reusable bag to use while we were there, it really wasn't a problem. I love that Outrigger on Kaua'i provides re-usable bags to their guests, if all of the hotels in the islands did this it would make it much easier for visitors to the islands to be more "green". 

  10. I am a former resident to maui and i love the bag ban! i am currently proposing it in florida hopefully it will catch on! we never used plastic bags when our grandparents grew up so why is it so hard to switch? not enough people recycle and so we need to face the music of those choices of others and make a stand for the environment…i am no hippie but i am a mom who would like my land to be as beautifull as it was when i was little fr my kids instead of seeing the dumps and the trash littering the roads an beaches! i was at clearwater beach recently an as i watched dolphins playing in the waves i also watched adults an kids toss their plastic bags on the ground 5ft from the trash cans! some bags i saw were floating in the water an headed out to the dolphins while the others were well on their way tumbling doenw the beach towards the water!

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