Lawmaker behind proposed plastic bottle ban optimistic it will pass, just not this year

First came a ban on foam and plastic takeout containers, then plastic bags and utensils. Could a ban on plastic bottles be next?
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 4:05 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2023 at 7:02 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - First came a ban on foam and plastic takeout containers, then plastic bags and utensils.

Could a ban on plastic bottles be next?

House Bill 87 originally proposed banning the sale of all disposable plastic bottles below 2 liters.

It passed out of its first committee on Tuesday, but was amended to apply only to water bottles and exempted bottles used for public health and emergencies.

Supporters believe a ban can help reduce marine debris and promote sustainable alternatives. but opponents say banning is not the answer.

“It doesn’t solve the problem, especially with bottles,” said Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, one of several groups who believe getting rid of disposable water bottles by 2024 is unrealistic.

Yamaki said the ban hurts retailers ― who stand to lose revenue ― and consumers, who could end up paying more for alternative packaging.

“We go by what the consumer wants. And that’s why we’re providing these things,” she said.

“There has to be something that’s gonna work, not just we want to get rid of it and not and that’s it. There’s other steps that need to be taken in order for this to be positive and also successful.”

Supporters of the ban point to the increased use of Hydroflasks ― proof that habits are changing.

“The intent is not to worry anybody or to upset the applecart or increase prices at the cash register. The intent is to look at ways where we can be a more sustainable society,” said State Rep. Sean Quinlan, of the North Shore.

He’s introduced the bill two times prior to this session.

This is the first time the bill has passed out of a committee, but still has several hurdles to overcome.

Quinlan admits the bill is unlikely to pass, but says the conversations are a win.

“It is a signal to the industry and to the public that we are considering this,” he said.

“And what I would not want to happen is a situation where five years from now, all of a sudden, we pass a bill like this and the industry is completely unprepared. So I’m committed to working with the industry to look at solutions.”

For many, that means improving local recycling programs.

“Part of the solution has to be that Hawaii doesn’t really have a total recycling system here,” Yamaki said.

“Yes, we have the blue bins at home. But like in other countries or in other states, you see the blue bins all over the city where if you have a water bottle or juice, whatever it is, you can put it in there for recycling.”

The bill is awaiting hearings in additional committees.