Oahu's year-old ban plastic bag: Working or not?
Habits are hard to break and when it comes to remembering to bring your reusable bags.
HONOLULU - Customers at Down to Earth know the drill. Reduce, reuse, recycle -- that's on the sign at the checkout.
At some other stores around town you will still get asked: paper or plastic? Habits are hard to break and when it comes to remembering to bring your reusable bags. Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don't.
"We not only have people bring in their reusable bags they have been saving their plastic bags for a while and they bring those in and that's fine as long as they are reusing them," said Down To Earth’s Frank Santana.
"It's working out great. They have the paper bags if you don't bring your own. Most people bring and it works out," said Honolulu Abigail Roll who is a regular shopper at the Moiliili store.
Down to Earth said its used the ban as a marketing tool to promote the store's brand. Burlap bags proved popular, not just with residents, but tourists too. But when the city passed the plastic bag ban, it didn't include any requirement to determine it was really helping to reduce our waste stream.
And while customers say they feel good about helping the environment, are they really?
"It's just a switch from one plastic bag to another. We are still seeing plastic bags in the environment,” said Suzanne Frazer Co-Founder of Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii or BEACH.
Frazer's environmental organization is frustrated. It just cleared this area of trash. Two weeks later its loaded with debris including lots of thick plastic re-useable bags.
"There's thick plastic bags because the stores replaced the thinner plastic with thicker ones. So we are seeing those on the ground. There are all of the food bags because those were never banned so there's really little to no change," said Frazer.
Frazer calls it a fake bag ban. She's calling for tougher laws and what she said is a real plastic ban.
"It would be better if everyone would jump on board. Some companies do plastic and some do reusable bags, so it doesn't do much good," said Kailua Resident Jacob Barcus.
Barcus said he'd support revisiting the current law to see if its doing what it’s supposed to.
"If their goal is to eliminate garbage then, yeah,” said Barcus.
The city told KITV its focus is on "compliance" based on a survey it sent out to island businesses. It's only issued a handful of warning letters based on actual inspections. It also says in the past year, it's seen more stores going "bag-free" and believes that may be the growing trend.