Pack Your (Reusable) Bags: Honolulu’s Plastic Bag Ban Gets Tougher This Week

Beginning July 1, the city ordinance requires that most businesses charge a minimum of 15 cents for bags.
Reusable bag Lauren Roth
You won’t mind carrying the Nanea bag by Lauren Roth and LeSportsac. $55, local LeSportsac locations.
Photo: Brie Thalmann


Hey, Honolulu! It’s time to dig out those bags stuffed under your car seats or in the closet or risk paying 15 cents for a bag the next time you’re shopping. We knew it was coming: The next phase of the city’s plastic bag ban is taking effect.


Beginning July 1, the city ordinance requires that most businesses charge a minimum of 15 cents per compostable, recyclable paper or reusable bag they provide to customers to transport merchandise. Think of it as doing our part to help save the planet and avoid more waste.


And we can be ready with reusable bags, cute fabric and canvas totes and even those thick plastic ones. We’ve got the weekend to find those adorable totes we’ve hidden away or track down those brand bags from our favorite merchants.


The Honolulu City Council unanimously passed the new ordinance, Sections 9-9.1 through 9-9.4, in 2016, which was then signed into law by Mayor Kirk Caldwell in 2017.


The next phase takes effect Jan. 1, 2020, when businesses will no longer be able to provide compostable plastic bags or plastic film bags with a thickness of 10 mils or less when they sell merchandise. Those are the thick plastic bags that usually say reusable and several chain stores have been handing out for free.


The city Department of Environmental Services sent out reminders about the change in November and April. For more information on plastic bags and recycling on O‘ahu, go to


Some bags can still be handed out, including:

  • Those stores give away to package loose items, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, ground coffee, items from the bulk bins, hardware and more.

  • Bags used to wrap frozen foods, meat, fish, flowers or potted plants, or other damp items;

  • Those used for prepared foods, beverages or bakery goods, including takeout bags used at restaurants, fast-food restaurants and lunch wagons;

  • Those used by pharmacists to hold prescription medications;

  • Newspaper bags for delivery;

  • Door-hanger bags;

  • Laundry, dry cleaning or garment bags, including bags provided by hotels to guests to contain wet or dirty clothing.