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Hawaii plastic bag ban goes into effect

Hawaii News Now reports the City and County of Honolulu, which includes the entire island of Oahu, is the last part of the state to outlaw plastic bags. The county approved the ban three years ago to help prevent more plastic from polluting the Pacific Ocean and littering the land. Kauai and Maui counties were the first to enact plastic bag bans four year ago. The Big Island of Hawaii followed in 2013.

On Oahu, fines for violations start at $100 per day and can soar to $1,000 per day for repeat offenders. Federal agencies are exempt from the ban but some, like the Navy Exchange, have announced they will comply with the law. Others, including the commissary at Pearl Harbor, said they will ignore it.

While plastic checkout bags are no longer allowed, compostable plastic bags, identified by a compostable logo, remain legal. Small plastic bags used to hold produce, nuts and candy, as well as plastic bags for prepared foods, newspapers and medicine are also excluded from the ban.

Hawaii becomes the first state to pass a statewide ban on plastic bags in grocery stores. In 2014, California passed a law banning single-use plastic bags but opponents led by the plastic bag industry, which according to CNN Money spent $3.2 million campaigning against the ban, were able to collect enough signatures to get the issue on the 2016 electoral ballot.

Plastic is not biodegradable and is one of the leading causes of ocean pollution. According to a recent study published in Science, in 2010 between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons (about 10.5 billion to 28 billion pounds) of plastic entered the world’s oceans. China was by far the biggest source, dumping a staggering 5 billion pounds of plastic waste into its waterways. The United States ranks 20th on the list of leading plastic polluters.

So much plastic is polluting the world’s oceans that massive garbage patches, known as gyres, are slowly swirling like giant toxic islands covering huge swathes of sea. Some of them measure hundreds of miles across. The results for fish, birds, marine mammals and other wildlife have been disastrous.

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