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City Plastics Ban Bill Undergoing Changes But Businesses Want Statewide Approach

Casey Harlow/HPR
Business representatives gather on Nov. 5, 2019 at Honolulu Hale to oppose Bill 40, which aims to ban certain plastic items used by restaurants and in manufacturing.

A bill banning single-use plastic items on Oahu has been moved back to a City Council committee for more discussion but that’s not stopping business owners from wanting a statewide approach to the issue. 

Dozens of people attended a rally outside of Honolulu Hale Tuesday to oppose Bill 40.

The measure would prohibit the use of certain plastic items, and polystyrene containers in local restaurants and food manufacturing.

Business owners oppose the bill, saying it would give mainland competitors an advantage because it wouldn’t apply to their products.

The City Council’s Public Safety and Welfare Committee allowed for hardship exemptions for businesses that have no alternatives but to use plastics.

But companies say the bill’s intent has become more confusing – and the list of products has expanded beyond its original intent of phasing out plastic straws, stirrers, utensils and bags.

“There is a state plastic reduction working group in place that’s meeting in a couple weeks," said Jason Higa, CEO of Zippy's Restaurants. "And they are probably the best vehicle for finding reasonable legislation – it’s going to be at the state level and apply to all counties. So what we’re asking the council members to do is to allow the state to address plastic reduction.”

Higa says the working group consists of business owners and environmental groups.

Meanwhile, City Councilmember Joey Manahan, who introduced the Honolulu measure, says the bill is back in committee for further discussion and amendments. Manahan says he has met with food industry representatives to address their concerns – and there’s been progress.

“I think the only hang up right now is we’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do with utensils," he said. "But a lot of the concerns I believe have been addressed – in regards to the pre-packaging and some of the language we’re going to be offering with regards to the pre-packaged goods. But also some language that we are potentially okay with regards to a polystyrene ban.”

Manahan says he is looking to a Hawaii County ordinance as a model for addressing pre-packaged goods.

He hopes to see some kind of resolution on Bill 40 before the end of the year.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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