Shopping list? Check. Money? Check. Shopping bags?
As of today, shopping bags need to be on everyone’s list of shopping essentials now that plastic bags have been banned in all Maui County businesses.
A county ordinance, introduced by then council member Michael Molina in 2008, bans the use of plastic bags to customers at the point of sale for the purpose of transporting groceries or other goods. Friendly Market, the largest grocery store on Molokai, will sell paper bags to customers at a small price.
The county council found that plastic bags significantly impacted the environment by way of litter and potentially endangering marine animals through ingestion and entanglement. The ordinance is intended to encourage the use of environmentally preferable alternatives to plastic bags, such as recyclable paper bags or reusable bags.
Under the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance, businesses cannot give out plastic bags at the point of sale, including at swap meets, fairs and festivals. The ordinance particularly targets the thin “T-shirt” type bag. Ordinance proponents want to do away with these especially, which they say they are both a eyesore and an environmental hazard. Discarded bags fly in the wind and get stuck on fences, particularly in the area of the Molokai landfill. Plastic bags can also get into the ocean, where they harm marine life.
But businesses will be permitted to provide customers with paper bags and thicker, reusable plastic bags that adhere to the ordinance guidelines. Some stores also have reusable bags for sale if customers forget theirs or don’t have one. But stores are not required to pass out paper bags.
Violations of the law will result in administrative warnings and fines. Businesses that do not comply with the ordinance will generally face a warning letter; then if further noncompliance is noted, a notice of violation. A business found to be noncompliant can face a $500 civil fine for each day of violation up to 30 days. The fine escalates to a maximum of $1,000 per day thereafter.
“I am glad that Maui County is taking this step to protect our environment,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa. “San Francisco passed this law several years ago but only to ban plastic bags at large supermarkets and chain drugstores. Our law addresses all businesses.”
To raise awareness of this environmental issue, one Molokai High School senior even made it the subject of her senior project. For several days in December, Karly Apo passed out brochures in front of Friendly Market to educate the public on this new law. She also passed out free recyclable bags to anyone who turned in a plastic bag and signed her sheet.
“The purpose of my project is quite simple,” wrote Apo, “to promote the use of reusable shopping bags and to discourage the use of plastic bags in the community of Molokai before the ban goes into effect.”