What is the Oahu bag tax?
The Oahu bag tax was recently enacted in the islands. It was passed in 2017 in Honolulu and put into action in July 2018. As a recent piece of legislation, I think locals are still adjusting to it. The tax has various definitions throughout the islands and applies to different bags. For example, the plastic bag tax applies to “businesses” in Honolulu and “retail establishments” in Kauai. In Honolulu, the law verbatim reads, “prohibited from providing plastic checkout bags and non-recyclable paper bags to their customers at the point of sale,” but they can provide reusable bags at a tax of 15 cents. There are stipulations throughout the legislation that allow businesses to provide paper bags to customers for transporting food and baked goods.
The Oahu Bag Tax Reflects Hawaii’s Lifestyle
Locals in the islands have always had a nature-friendly environmentally-conscious lifestyles. The heart of “malama aina” (respect the land) rests on the idea that we belong to the land, not the other way around. Locals have always radiated values of respecting the land and caring for the environment. I’m not surprised that this legislation passed easily, it’s been a long time coming. Hawaii politics has been building up to it, with recent bag-restrictions passed in 2015. It was only a matter of time before they passed legislation like this. I think we all saw it coming! Secondly, reusable shopping bags was spreading throughout the islands as a common feature of daily culture. For example, Foodland, a popular local grocery chain, sells reusable shopping bags. They come in cute, local styles like the “spam Musubi” bag that appeals to locals. The popularity of reusable shopping bags has been growing over the years.
How to Adjust to the tax
Carrying reusable shopping bags for your groceries in your car is the best way to adjust. If you are like me, you will forget to pack it in your vehicle each time you’re out grocery shopping. Hence, just keep it in your car at all times. It solves the issue. I also find that doing personal shopping is easier with a larger purse because then you can fit your merchandise in your purse, without needing a reusable bag. Also, online shopping makes the whole shopping experience easier in general. E-commerce and online retail has been on the rise for the last decade, and we see this in store closings across the country. The bag tax can also push consumers to e-commerce because of the convenience factor.
Why do we have the Oahu bag tax?
The law was designed to reduce the use of plastics and non-recyclable that are “disposed of as solid waste.” Hawaii has always had heavy environmental regulations to protect marine and ocean life. Like I said, it’s no surprise that they passed this legislation with minimal push back. With the news and publicity that our oceans get, it’s heartbreaking when we lose marine life because of plastic litter that reaches the ocean, and invades the homes of ocean life. With the research and activism that’s been going on in the last decade for environmental protections, it was expected that Hawaii would ban plastic bags at some point. It is no surprise.