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Changes to Honolulu plastic bag ban will hurt a local family business

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Honolulu City Council will vote on changes to the plastic bag ban at its meeting Wednesday.

If the bill passes, environmental groups will consider it a victory in getting rid of thicker, 2.25 mil plastic bags that they say pollute the ocean, but one local family will lose a chunk of their business.

Island Plastic Bags is a family business in the Halawa Valley that just celebrated its 25th anniversary. They've been engaged in the conversation about the plastic bag ban over the last five years, and support a "pay for use" policy over an outright ban. 

"My frustration is that we've gone through this process before," said Adrian Hong, President of Island Plastic Bags. 

Hong's parents started the company and passed it on to him. Island Plastic Bags manufactures mostly trash liners, but 10% of its business comes from supplying 2.25 mil and compostable plastic bags.

"We'll be losing some of those customers if the ban goes into effect," said Hong. 

The latest version of Honolulu's plastic bag ban would require businesses to charge a 15-cent fee for each plastic or paper bag..

"I think 15-cents is right on the spot where it's going to make everybody think twice about and to remind them to bring their reusable bags," said Stuart Coleman, Hawaii Regional Manager for the Surfrider Foundation.    

The bill would also phase out all single use plastic bags by 2020, including 2.25 mil bags, often marketed as reusable. 

"Plastic bags are one of the most littered items on the planet next to cigarette butts," said Coleman. 

The Surfrider Foundation and other environmental groups who helped work on the bill, said the intent is to keep our ocean clean, but for Island Plastic Bags, the bill is bringing up an old discussion that will hurt them, their clients, and the partnerships their family worked hard to build. 

"I don't think it's fair for the businesses to switch every 2-years, just because the environmental groups want to change the rules every couple of years," said Hong.

The Honolulu City Council meeting begins at 10 AM Wednesday. 

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