Honolulu Enforces Plastic Bag Ban After Pandemic Pause

By: - April 1, 2021 12:00 am

Customers line up at the Wiki Wiki Drive Inn takeout restaurant counter in Honolulu. Honolulu reinstated its plastic bag ban April 1 after suspending it because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Audrey McAvoy/The Associated Press

Honolulu’s ban on plastic bags, one of the strongest in the nation, finally goes into effect today after being pushed back due to the pandemic.

The ordinance prohibits restaurants and other businesses from giving out plastic bags, as well as plastic utensils and plastic straws. Customers still can request paper bags for a 15 cent fee and disposable utensils, which must be made out of recyclable material.

The ban was scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1 but was postponed “because of the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Honolulu Department of Environmental Services said in a statement.

Honolulu and most other jurisdictions in Hawaii have bans on plastic bags, making it in practice one of eight states that have plastic bag bans on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Nationwide, many plastic bag bans were suspended during the pandemic. Supporters of the plastics industry and some state representatives have seized on the interruptions to press for ending the bans altogether. Pennsylvania and Maine are among the states tussling over the bans.

Honolulu’s plastic restrictions are scheduled to get even tighter by next January. At that time no food vendor will be allowed to sell or serve food in polystyrene containers or disposable plastic food ware, under the ordinance.

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Elaine S. Povich
Elaine S. Povich

Elaine S. Povich covers consumer affairs for Stateline. Povich has reported for Newsday, the Chicago Tribune and United Press International.