After hours of testimony, sweeping single-use plastics ban gets council approval

Honolulu City Council approves a bill banning most single-use plastics

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After several changes and hours of testimony, the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday approved a sweeping ban on single-use plastics on Oahu.

Bill 40 was approved by a margin of 7 to 2. Council members Carol Fukunaga and Ann Kobayashi were opposed.

It’s now headed to the mayor’s desk, and he’s said he’ll sign it.

The measure drew dozens of testifiers to the City Council, and supporters in the crowd erupted in cheers when the final vote was tallied.

“It’s one of those moments that’s once in a lifetime that you’ll always remember, that I was here and we were all here, part of this movement together and it came to a great conclusion,” said Stuart Coleman of the Surfrider Foundation.

A new draft of a bill to eliminate single-use plastics for takeout on Oahu no longer includes prepackaged foods.
A new draft of a bill to eliminate single-use plastics for takeout on Oahu no longer includes prepackaged foods. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

Those pleading their case before the council included high school students, who unveiled a scroll of 1,500 names in support of the measure.

“All of us here, we live in Hawaii. It’s our home, and it’s our job to take care of it,” said one of the students.

“Through this bill passing, it’s not going to save our problem here in Hawaii, but what it’s going to do is set an example for the rest of the world,” said supporter Ray Aivazian III.

Under the measure, food vendors will be prohibited from providing plastic forks, spoons, knives, straws or other utensils as of January 2021.

The ban will expand to plastic cups, lids and containers the following year.

Several changes were made to the bill after pushback from critics, who said the ban will cause hardships to businesses and increase costs ― and confusion.

“Many of the definitions in this bill have problems that will make it hard for businesses to implement, and hard for the department to enforce consistently,” said Lauren Zirbel, executive director of the Hawaii Food Industry Association of Hawaii.

After the vote, Jason Higa, CEO of Zippy’s Restaurants, issued a statement that read in part, "We appreciate that Bill 40 was amended to address many of industry’s concerns. We were disappointed, however, in the way the process unfolded which resulted in hasty drafting and re-drafting of amendments, which is not the ideal way to develop new policies. "

Councilmember Fukunaga also raised concerns about the process.

“We have, in each instance, received drafts of amendments less than 24 hours, sometimes less than 48 hours, before the time that those amendments are being adopted,” she said just before the vote.

But after hours of testimony, the bill was passed.

“It’s been a really long time. I think it’s long overdue,” said council member Joey Manahan, who introduced Bill 40. “Certainly I’m just happy that things went the way they went.”

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