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Despite Changes, Some Food Vendors Still Oppose Proposed City Plastics Ban

Casey Harlow/HPR

A measure banning single-use plastic and polystyrene products from Oahu restaurants is moving to the full City Council for a final vote after amendments, although some businesses remain opposed to it.

The latest version of Bill 40 would ban Oahu eateries from using plastic utensils, straws, and polystyrene containers and put the city on track to join other counties in limiting nonbiodegradable waste.

The council’s Public Safety and Welfare Committee considered the measure Thursday after it was sent back to the panel for more work.

Committee Chair Tommy Waters offered several amendments to clarify the bill’s intent and detail which items would and wouldn’t be covered by the ban.

“It does not include disposable plastic condiment packets, food-related bags or wrappers – such as musubi wraps, plastic film, poi bags, chip bags, crackers and cookie wrappers, bread bags," Waters said. "So it’s addressing Love’s Bakery – they’re not going to be affected by this ban."

Several local business leaders still oppose the measure, saying its language remains vague and it will have negative impacts on small businesses.

"It’s still confusing, even with the updated changes and the hand carry [amendments]," said Michael Miller with Tiki’s Bar and Grill. "And the reason I say that is because I’m still getting calls from smaller operators than us. That are saying, ‘Hey, what’s really going on here? I’m worried.'”

Supporters of the measure cited the environmental consequences of plastic pollution and emphasized the bill is not about hurting local businesses.

"This is very clear, and it did address a lot of the issues that the industry had on these things," said Rafael Bergstrom, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.  "And nobody’s going to be calling in to you guys, with the [city] Department of Environmental Services, saying ‘Somebody just served me popcorn in a plastic bag. You should crack down on them.’"

Waters’ amendments were adopted by the committee and the measure will likely be considered by the full council next month.

If the plastics ban is approved, businesses would have two years to fully comply.

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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