Hawaii is slated to become the first state in the nation to ban plastic bags at checkouts in every county.
“This is groundbreaking,” said Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, according to msnbc.com.
Carlisle signed off on the ban last week, joining Honolulu County with the state’s three other counties, which had already passed the ban.
“By signing this environmentally friendly bill, Honolulu joined our neighbor island countries. Hawaii has become the only state in the United States where every county has plastic bag legislation.” Carlisle said.
The change goes into effect on July 15, 2015, giving retailers “plenty of time to get ready,” he told msnbc.com.
“Retailers will be able to use up their inventory of bags and make arrangements to educate the public on the importance of bringing their own bag,” Carlisle said.
Bans are already enforced in Kauai and Maui counties, and Hawaii County’s takes effect on Jan. 16, 2013.
The news comes on the heels of a report from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography documenting a shocking increase in plastic waste floating in the northeast Pacific Ocean.
Particularly in a region dubbed the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” marine life is changing as creatures ingest plastic at alarming rates.
The bans passed after a two-year campaign directed by the Sierra Club, an environmental group.
“Passing the bans did take an effort — change always does — but people seemed to understand the need for such an effort,” Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter, told msnbc.com.
“Being a marine state, perhaps, we are exposed more directly to the impacts of plastic pollution and the damage it does to our environment,” he said.
“People in Hawaii are more likely to be in the water or in the outdoors and see the modern-day tumbleweed — plastic bags — in the environment.”