Scaled-down version of single-use plastics ban finds support from some businesses

Published: Nov. 12, 2019 at 8:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After pushback from food industry leaders, a City Council committee is set to consider a revised version the bill that would target Oahu’s single-use plastics.

Environmental groups and several businesses rallied at Honolulu Hale on Tuesday to show their support for the new draft, which aims to reduce takeout food and beverage waste.

"You go to the beach and you see all that microplastic on the shoreline. It's very sad to know that Hawaii's beaches have turned into that," said Gayla Young, owner of Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery.

“Business owners can just be a little more responsible. Do what’s right. It’s not that hard.”

Under the measure, plastic straws and utensils would be banned beginning in 2021 along with polystyrene foam food ware. Packaging for raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs would be exempted.

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, the ban would also include plastic food ware, including cups, lids and containers.

"While the cost is a little bit higher for the compostable cups, it's on the margin, very small. It's on the margin of five to ten cents, which is a cost you can easily pass on to the consumer," said Rafael Baez, owner of Island Brew Coffeehouse.

Councilman Joey Manahan ran into resistance when he tried to expand the bill he originally introduced.

“We had the unintended consequence of basically having it apply to really almost everything you see in the grocery store, which I think would have been difficult to implement,” said Manahan.

In response to critics’ concerns, the revised version of the bill excludes prepackaged foods and beverages. Products like chips, tofu, and bentos wouldn’t be included under the ban.

"It's still what we would refer to as a 'Frankenstein bill,'" said Jason Higa, CEO of FCH Enterprises, Zippy's Restaurants. "It's still comprised of a whole bunch of layers of exemptions.

Higa also said that businesses trying to secure a two-year exemption due to undue hardship would struggle.

“It’s not a process that would be manageable by the city. It would not be done fairly, and it’s one that would be prone to failure,” he said.

Higa believes the solution lies with the State Plastic Reduction Working Group, which will bring businesses, environmental groups, and other stakeholders together during its first meeting Thursday. That is the same day that the new draft of Bill 40 is set to be heard by the council’s Public Safety and Welfare Committee.

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