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Single-Use Plastic Ban Bill Moves Forward At Honolulu City Council

Casey Harlow
During a press conference on Thursday, local business owners said Bill 40 would ban packaging for items such as these, and hurt local businesses. The latest version of the measure would provide exemptions when products are beyond a business's control.

A measure to restrict single-use plastics and polystyrene containers on Oahu is moving forward at the City Council.

Bill 40 would ban the use and distribution of plastic utensils, straws and polystyrene food packaging for restaurants and stores. This follows similar action taken by Maui and Hawaii counties.

The City Council's Public Safety and Welfare Committee discussed the measure and proposed amendments Thursday. The committee considered two different set of amendments to the measure, both of which aimed to clarify the bill's intent and the products that would be exempt from the ban.

Council member Joey Manahan's proposed amendments were adopted over Council member Carol Fukunaga's proposals, which would allow for exemptions in "hardship" situations.

Manahan's amendments would also give businesses hardship exemptions for products that would otherwise be banned by the bill. The exemptions could be applied to products that are beyond a business's control, such as those that are pre-packaged, or if there were no packaging alternatives on the market. 

But what wouldn't be exempt are plastic bags and polystyrene takeout containers from restaurants.

"The intent here is to really to address single-use plastics within the food service industry," said Manahan. "Stuff that we're getting for takeout."

Opponents still maintained Bill 40 is unclear, and that there are no cost-effective, viable alternatives to plastic and polystyrene. Business owners told the committee that eco-friendly alternatives are coming, but they are still years away from being on the market.

However, several supporters of the bill say they are already using eco-friendly containers.

Matthew Hong, co-founder of the yogurt outlet Banán, told council members his company originally used petroleum-based bowls. But it has since switched to plant-based bowls and utensils.

"The quality comparison between the two is none," said Hong. "We've never had any customer complaints ever from our bowls, our spoons, our cups."

The committee approved the measure for the full council's review.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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