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Ask The Mayor: Are Grocery Store Plastic Bags Banned, Too?

Posted January 11, 2015, 07:21 PM HST Updated January 18, 2015, 11:46 AM HST
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Michael Molina introduced the Plastic Bag Ban in Maui County. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Michael Molina introduced the Plastic Bag Ban in Maui County. Photo by Wendy Osher.

The mayor answers questions from the public in this series.

By Mayor Alan Arakawa

Q: I know that Maui has banned plastic bags in the stores but, I’ve noticed lately that one large, Hawai‘i-based supermarket chain has been using them. They are reusable, but I don’t know if they are biodegradable. Can you please look into this? Thank you.

A: Certainly. According to the Maui County Code, single-use plastic bags less than 3 mils thick are banned. Plastic bags with handles that are more than 3 mils thick are allowed; however, there is no requirement that bags be biodegradable. The bags you mentioned are indeed plastic, and our Recycling staff have been in contact with the management of the supermarket chain to determine whether they meet the criteria for “permitted reusable” bags.

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However, initial conversations with the company suggest that the bags were initially ordered as reusable bags for retail sale but are now being given away to customers just until the current supply runs out. Both retail stores and restaurants are included in the plastic bag ban, which was enacted in Maui County on Jan. 11, 2011, to help combat the volume of waste created by the use of single-use plastic bags. It’s estimated that the average American uses 300–700 plastic bags per year. Worldwide, somewhere between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used each year. For more information on the plastic bag ban, visit www.mauicounty.gov/plasticbags and click on either of the FAQ links.

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email at AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov, by phone at 270-7855 or by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

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