Aloha! Leave Your Plastic Grocery Bags at Home

Published July 2, 2012

Honolulu County has joined Hawaii’s three other counties in enacting a ban on plastic shopping bags, making Hawaii the first state with a total ban on plastic shopping bags. 

The Honolulu County Council approved the ban in April. Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, who also acts as the county executive, initially held back his support in order to gauge the public’s attitude and study the enforcement and compliance costs. Carlisle signed the ban in May and gave retailers three years to comply. The three year phase-in will allow retailers to use up their inventory of bags and educate the public about the change.

The county law bans non-biodegradable plastic bags at checkout as well as paper bags that are not at least 40 percent recycled.

Retailers in Honolulu County have until July 1, 2015, to make the change.

Green Race to the Bottom

John Charles, president and CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Oregon, says the ban is part of a game of one-upmanship by politicians to see who can garner more environmental street cred.

“Certain politicians are in a race to the bottom to see who can make the most nonsensical, invasive, punitive law with the goofiest green condition they can come up with, when they should be fixing the roads. Portland is competing with Boulder, while Seattle is competing with Berkeley, and so on, to win some sort of environmental bragging rights. It’s just silly. We’ve wasted so much time and political capital on nonsense,” he said.

“This is an individual decision that must be left solely up to the consumer,” said Gennady Stolyarov II, editor-in-chief of The Rational Argumentator, an online journal championing Western principles of reason, rights, and progress. “Government force has no place in making consumers behave in accordance with privileged elites’ definitions of morality and environmental responsibility. Such compulsion is always ineffective at achieving its intended results, and always brings about perverse unintended consequences.”

More Economic Hardship

“Environmental activists have succeeded at making the cost of groceries more expensive to get to the supermarket with their incessant wars on cars and gas. Now they’re making them more expensive to take home by banning the plastic bags we carry them in,” said Seton Motley, president of Less Government, a public policy organization that advocates free market solutions to societal issues. 

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.