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Oahu Ban on Plastics Takes Next Step At City Council

Casey Harlow/HPR

The ongoing effort to ban use of plastic bags, utensils and styrofoam containers moved forward at the Honolulu City Council Thursday. 

Although the city prohibited stores from offering single-use plastic bags in 2015, an exemption allowed Oahu restaurants to still use plastics to transport prepared food. 

Bill 40 would eliminate the exemption and add plastic utensils to the list of proposed single-use items to be banned. Styrofoam containers are also on that list.

Councilmember Joey Manahan introduced the measure in July and spoke on behalf of the bill at a meeting of the council's Committee on Public Safety and Welfare. 

“We have very aggressive goals of being zero emissions by 2045, but we still have not managed to ban plastics here,” he said. "I just really do not believe that there is any good reason or excuse that we have plastic containers anymore in our food service.” 

Those opposing the bill expressed frustration over the changing laws governing use of plastic bags.  

“Every couple of years, the City Council comes and changes and amends the law, so we thought about making compostable bags locally,” said Adrian Hong, president of Island Plastic Bags Inc.

“I’m glad we didn’t because I would’ve bought a million dollars worth of equipment.” 

An amended ordinance will ban compostable plastic bags beginning on Jan. 1, 2020. 

“There would need to be certainty of what products would be allowed 5, 10, 20 years in advance before I would ever commit a million dollars, $2 million redoing my whole facility, training my people, finding new materials,” Hong said.

Councilmember Carol Fukunaga proposed an amendment to the bill that would provide property tax exemptions for restaurants that fully comply with the measure. The amendment aims to alleviate any financial burden caused by a ban on plastic materials. 

However, the amendment was not included in Bill 40, which passed out of committee on second reading. The committee indicated it would be open later to changes.

Ashley Mizuo
Born and raised on O’ahu, she’s a graduate of ‘Iolani School and has a BA in Journalism and Political Science from Loyola University Chicago and an MA in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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