City & County of Honolulu Bag Ban Ordinances - Frequently Asked Questions


There have been a number of questions from businesses regarding compliance with the bag ban ordinances (12-8, 14-29, and 17-37) on Oahu. This document is meant to address some of the frequently asked questions regarding the ban, especially those related to the exemptions from the ban. For information about the ordinances and the related exemptions, please click on the following link maintained by the Department of Environmental Services: >http://www.opala.org/solid_waste/archive/plastic_bag_ban.html.

Overview:

Ordinances No. 12-8 and 14-29 prohibit businesses from distributing single use, plastic bags at checkout unless the bags are exempt. The ordinances allow the following bags to be distributed at checkout after the ban goes into effect:

  • Compostable bags (Banned by Ordinance 17-37 as of January 1, 2020)
  • Recyclable paper bags (must contain 40% postconsumer content)
  • Reusable bags (2.25 mil, plastic reusable bags are banned by Ordinance 17-37 as of January 1, 2020)

Questions:

What does the new bag ban passed in 2017 change?
Ordinance 17-37 requires that businesses providing reusable bags, compostable plastic bags, or recyclable paper bags at the point of sale charge the customer a minimum of 15 cents per bag. The fee goes into effect July 1, 2018. Ordinance 17-37 bans compostable bags and 2.25 mil, plastic reusable bags as of January 1, 2020.

Do the ordinances ban trash liners?
The ordinances do not ban trash liners. The ban has no effect on the purchase of trash liners.

Are the bags distributed by a restaurant to take out their prepared food exempt from the ban?
Bags used to protect or transport prepared foods, beverages, or bakery goods, including takeout bags used at restaurants, fast food restaurants, and lunch wagons, to transport prepared foods are exempt from this ban.

If a grocery store has a prepared takeout food section, will the bags used to transport the prepared foods be exempt from the ban?
The bags used to transport prepared foods would be exempt from the ban. The bags used to transport groceries or other merchandise will fall under the ban.

Does the bag ban apply to not-for-profit organizations?
The bag ban applies to any commercial enterprise or establishment whether for profit or not-for-profit.

Will bags that are distributed at farmers’ markets by vendors be exempt from the ban?
1) The bags distributed by vendors that sell prepared foods (ex. restaurants, bakeries, etc.) will be exempt from the ban.
2) The bags distributed by vendors will also be exempt from the ban if the bags are used by customers to package loose items, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, ground coffee, grains, candies, or small hardware items. If the plastic bag is the primary container of these items than it is exempt from the ban.

A company is both a souvenir shop and a deli. Would the bags distributed by the company be exempt from the ban?
The bags used to transport prepared foods on the deli side of the company would be exempt from the ban. However, the bags that are used at the souvenir shop would fall under the ban. If the company has only one teller and both sides of the business reside in the same space, it would make logistical sense just to go with a bag allowed under the ban. If both sides of the business have their own tellers and spaces inside of the store it may make sense to use plastic bags for the deli and a bag allowed under the ban for the souvenir shop.

Can businesses charge their customers for bags distributed at checkout?
Nothing in ordinances 12-8 & 14-29 prevent a business from charging customers for bags provided at checkout. Ordinance 17-37 requires that businesses providing reusable bags, compostable plastic bags, or recyclable paper bags at the point of sale charge the customer a minimum of 15 cents per bag. The fee is then kept by the business. The fee will go into effect July 1, 2018.

Who keeps the fee mandated by Ordinance 17-37?
The 15 cent fee per bag is kept by the business (ex. grocery store, liquor store, retail outlet, etc.). The fee will go into effect July 1, 2018.

Does the bag ban apply to military bases?
Businesses (privately or government-owned) operating on federal property are not subject to the bag ban. However, the City & County of Honolulu would like to see these businesses voluntarily join the local community in the ban.

How will the City & County of Honolulu go about monitoring and enforcing the ban?
The City & County of Honolulu mails annual notices to affected businesses as a reminder of the ban, along with a compliance form that they’ll be asked to complete and return with an explanation of how they plan to comply with the ban. The City & County of Honolulu will investigate reports of non-compliance.


The mailing might not be comprehensive and will likely not reach every affected business on island. Just because a business does not receive the notice does not mean the ordinances do not apply to them. If you are unsure of whether or not the ordinances apply to you and you have not received a notice, contact the Department of Environmental Services at 808-768-3200.