HILO — If you want to save a few cents at area supermarkets and shopping malls, now is the time to start toting your shopping bags into the store with you.
Starting today, Hawaii County’s plastic bag ban goes into effect, and most retail outlets will begin charging you for plastic bags. Many are also offering a few cents credit for each reusable bag you use instead.
Big Island supermarket KTA is taking it a step further: Its “100 percent Reusable Hoohana Hou” program aims at eliminating all types of single-use grocery bags by January 2014, when plastic bags will be permanently banned under the county ordinance. That means choosing either paper bags or plastic bags will still cost you a few cents at KTA stores.
“This is KTA’s way of doing its part to help preserve the aina for our children and all future generations,” Toby Taniguchi, KTA Super Stores’ vice president of store operations said in a statement. “Throughout 2013, as we phase out disposable grocery bags, KTA will provide tips, specials and reminders to our customers, encouraging them to bring their own bags.”
On the Big Island alone, more than 723 tons of paper grocery bags are used each year, according to KTA. The production of those paper bags contributes to air pollution and would require 12,000 trees to be cut down.
The County Council voted to ban plastic bags because they can threaten wildlife by entangling or choking fish, sea turtles and birds.
“Cutting down on petroleum-based plastic packaging and also paper packaging, lessens our dependence on foreign oil and use of natural resources while reducing air, land and water pollution,” said Paul Buklarewicz, president of Keep Hawaii Beautiful and executive director of Recycle Hawaii.
The ordinance exempts plastic bags without handles that are used for retail items such as meat, produce, bulk food items, garments and prescription drugs. It also exempts nonprofit organizations and nonincorporated community booster organizations. Paper bags are still permitted under the ordinance.
If a business violates the ordinance, a warning letter will be issued. A second violation will result in a civil fine of $250 per day. The third violation will result in a civil fine of $500 per day and subsequent violations will result in civil fines of $1,000 per day.