A controversial ban on single-use plastics is up for a vote at the state capitol

Hawaii lawmakers set to vote on single-use plastics ban

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the zero waste movement catches on, a key vote is set for Tuesday on a proposal to ban single-use plastics that are common in the food and beverage industry.

Senate Bill 522 is aimed at reducing plastic pollution. The bill would prohibit single-use plastic food items, including straws, bottles, and utensils. Polystyrene food containers would also be banned.

Island Brew Coffeehouse has always used compostable cups. The company recently switched from plastic straws to paper ones.

“It does cost a little bit more, but when you look at the big picture thing, it’s not something that’s going to make or break you,” said owner Rafael Baez.

State and county agencies would be affected first, after July 1, 2021.

A year later, restaurants and other businesses would be impacted.

All plastic bags would be banned after July 1, 2023.

The measure is opposed by the associations representing Hawaii’s restaurant and retail industries.

Shiro’s Saimin Haven tried several green options, but went back to styrofoam due to safety concerns.

“Customers have brought it back to us, scolding us, saying that we should not be serving anything hot or soupy in the containers,” explained vice president Bryce Fujimoto.

Fujimoto said the eco-friendly containers are two to three times more expensive, which would lead to higher prices for customers.

“We’re all about saving the environment and the oceans and everything like that, but what’s really hard to swallow is that there’s not a compost station for these green containers to be processed,” he said.

Even without a commercial composting facility in Hawaii, supporters of the bill insist that using compostable items is still better than relying on fossil fuel-based products.

“Although composting would be an ideal end game solution, the fact of the matter is these products are made from renewable resources, and renewable resources is where it’s at,” said Ari Patz, a salesperson for Sustainable Island Products.

The measure also calls for a plastic source reduction working group made up of supporters and opponents. They would come up with pilot project recommendations for businesses to phase out single-use plastics and find sustainable alternatives

As lawmakers consider a possible ban, an organization is offering free metal straws at more than 17 cafes across Oahu. Hawaii Eco Straws has given away about 24,000 resuable straws through a pay it forward system that is based on donations.

“Sometimes people put some money in, sometimes they don’t, but we’ve been able to sustain this model for about nine months now,” said founder Imran Sourjah. “Experts say that one metal straw in its life will approximately eliminate 300 plastic straws.”

To submit testimony on the measure, click here.

Meanwhile, an organization is offering free metal straws at about 17 cafes across Oahu.

Hawaii Eco Straws says they have given away more than 24,000 reusable straws in the last nine months to various locations.

It’s all through a pay-it-forward method based on donations. The group is hoping to expand to the Big Island next.

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