Food industry leaders criticize council’s proposed ban on single-use plastics

Published: Nov. 5, 2019 at 6:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dozens of food industry leaders rallied outside Honolulu Hale on Tuesday to express their opposition to a wide-ranging ban proposed for single-use plastics.

Councilman Joey Manahan introduced Bill 40, which originally aimed to tighten the plastic bag ban while also eliminating plastic food containers, straws, and utensils used for takeout.

Critics, however, said the latest version is unfair to local businesses.

“At the last minute, at the 11th hour, without notice, without input, Councilmember Manahan expanded Bill 40 to include all plastics, affecting all Oahu business, affecting all Oahu food manufacturers,” said Jason Higa, CEO of FCH Enterprises, Zippy’s Restaurants. “It was underhanded and undemocratic.”

Higa said that the bill would affect many products, including poi bags, tofu containers, and the plastic wrap around SPAM musubi.

The full council was expected to vote on the measure on Wednesday, but the bill was instead sent back to the Public Safety and Welfare Committee.

“I think there’s a little bit of misinformation about perhaps where it is in the process," said Manahan.

“Right now, the bill has been recommitted already back into committee as of last week, and we have been meeting with the food industry folks to address a lot of their concerns actually, and I have to say the meetings have been very positive.”

But even supporters agreed that the bill’s current language is confusing.

Councilman Tommy Waters is working on a draft that will likely exclude pre-packaged foods from the ban.

He still believes, however, that the business community should be doing more to protect the environment.

"We just want them to do their part," said Waters. "There are alternatives out there."

Manahan said the city is trying to work with the food industry to reach a compromise.

"We're kind of trying to figure out still what to do with utensils, but I think there's agreement on some sort of language on a polystyrene ban," he said.

There are some hardship exemptions for businesses, but many companies remain skeptical.

"It leaves us with a lot of uncertainty because we don't know how those exemptions are going to be processed, what the criteria is, or anything else," said Jenai Wall, CEO of Foodland Super Market.

Under the current version of the bill, the ban would go into effect on January 1, 2021.

“We want to meet the business community where they’re at. We also don’t see this as kind of an environment versus business issue. We want us to all work together so that we maintain a happy, healthy aina,” said Nicole Chatterson, director of Zero Waste Oahu,

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