A proposed ban on polystyrene food containers is stirring up a fierce debate on Maui.
During a Maui County Council hearing on Monday, dozens of people weighed in on proposed styrofoam restrictions that would eliminate both the sale and use of the popular plate lunch containers.
Almost all of the testimony was in favor of the restrictions. Supporters of the bill say the changes would help the environment and reduce plastic pollution.
"It's going to be a momentous occasion if we ban this as the first in Hawaii, and I think that we will be the leader to help it sweep through the state," said Adriane Raff-Corwin, group coordinator for Sierra Club Maui.
But some businesses say switching to biodegradable or compostable products would be expensive and ineffective. Marilyn Jorgensen, co-owner of CJ's Deli & Diner, told the council that since compostable products don't automatically break down, the trash problem won't be solved.
"Passing the styrofoam ban is not sustainable. All the economic burden is being placed on the food service industry," she said.
Opponents urged the county to focus on improving litter management.
"A ban that singles out food-grade EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) food containers does little to reduce litter or ocean debris harmful to marine life and environment," said Joy Gold, a consultant for distributor KYD, Inc.
Under the current draft of the bill, the ban would also cover prepared foods in polystyrene containers packaged outside of the county.
"Sometimes change isn't easy, but we adapt simply because it's the right thing to do for our environment and for future generations to come. Recycling and litter control awareness is just simply not enough," said Maui resident Tiare Lawrence.
The council also listened to presentations from experts representing environmental groups and the food service industry. A final vote is expected on Tuesday.
Mayor Alan Arakawa says he supports the bill as long as there are reasonably priced alternatives for businesses to use.