San Francisco has a similar ban in place, and Washington, D.C., enforces a tax on plastic bags

Credit: David McNew/Getty

Four days ago, Oahu joined the other Hawaiian islands in a collective ban on plastic bags, making the islands the first U.S. state to prohibit them.

The ban forbids businesses from giving customers carryout bags made from non-compostable materials that are not specifically designed for re-use. But there are a series of exceptions: It doesn’t apply to bags used for medical or sanitary purposes, or bags used for fruits, veggies, nuts, meat or fish, flowers or potted plants. Takeout bags at restaurants and newspaper bags used for home deliveries are also exempt. Violators are subject to fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 per day.

Maui was the first Hawaiian island to implement a ban, in 2011. Kauai followed later that year, and Hawaii County joined in 2013. In the continental States, California is considering a similar ban, one that some cities, like San Francisco, already have in effect. Washington, D.C., and several other cities have, instead of a ban, implemented a tax on disposable bags at food stores.

“There’s harsh economics behind bag recycling: It costs $4,000 to process and recycle one ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, according to Temple University s Office of Sustainability.