Council considers single-use plastics ban while industry seeks ‘carrot-based’ model

City Council to hear bill that would ban single-use plastics on Oahu

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - An ongoing effort to ban the use of plastic bags, utensils and styrofoam containers is being taken up by the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday.

Single-use plastic bags were the first to go in 2015.

Now, city officials want to eliminate some of the exceptions to that law — including allowing food establishments to still offer them for take out — and they’d also like to expand the ban to include other single-use plastics like utensils, straws and styrofoam containers.

Councilman Joey Manahan introduced the measure in July and says Bill 40 aligns with the state’s ambitious zero emissions goal by 2045.

“We’re doing so many things around climate change. We’re concerned about sea level rise. We’re concerned about global warming, and Hawaii has taken such a leadership role in the issue and so it’s time for us to ban plastics,” said Manahan, adding that the expansive bill was written to address all single-use plastics, but he understands some exceptions may need to be made, including plastic straws needed by those with certain medical conditions.

“There’s room for compromise, but really we need to show leadership especially on single-use styrofoam containers for food production,” said Manahan.

Polystyrene foam containers have successfully been banned on both Maui and Hawaii Island in recent years.

Those who oppose the bill have expressed repeated frustration over how much laws governing the use of plastics have changed over the years, including an amended ordinance that will ban compostable plastic bags beginning in January of 2020.

The executive director of the Hawaii Food Industry Association issued this statement: “The industry prefers an approach which works on a holistic level. If we are moving to compostable items, which cost 3-4 times more, the city and county should offer a way to compost these items along with post consumer food waste. Technology exists to make this happen and is utilized in other areas. Currently compostable products are sent to HPOWER on Oahu.”

Lauren Zirbel went on to say, “We would suggest a carrot-based approach to reducing waste. Tax credits for businesses that take steps to reduce their waste would go a long way towards making sustainability economically advantageous to all businesses.”

Previous efforts in recent years to ban foam or other non-compostable items have failed at both the county and state level, but Manahan is hopeful.

“A plastic-free Hawaii? I really think we can do it, right? We have so many different options. For example: straws.”

“We could be producing bamboo straws. That could be an industry here, rather than plastic straws. Why are producing plastic straws when we could have bamboo straws. They’re totally sustainable,” said Manahan explaining how he was inspired after a recent outing to get shave ice.

“This girl, she got her shave ice and she pulled out a bamboo spoon to eat her shave ice and I thought that was so amazing and I said, ‘Why can’t we do that?’ And hey, they’re leading the way. This is the keiki leading the way. So you know, I think it’s the wave of the future and we have to take action.”

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