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Study shows Maui's polystyrene ban had a limited impact on beaches

Casey Harlow/HPR

A new study shows Maui County’s 2018 polystyrene ban had a limited impact on Valley Isle beaches.

Of the five beaches studied, only two showed a minor reduction in polystyrene debris after the ban, said Dr. Jennifer Lynch, the co-director of the Hawaiʻi Pacific University Center for Marine Debris Research and one of the scientists who worked on the study.

Lynch says if the county wants to significantly reduce plastic on beaches, it should focus on international foreign fishing fleets, which use lines and nets made from plastic.

"I really do hope that you know, the United States, State of Hawaiʻi, and counties get involved in dealing with the biggest bulk of the plastic trash that's washing ashore in Hawaiʻi — and raise their voices, have conversations internationally," Lynch said.

"I know the state of Hawaiʻi already has great relations with a lot of Asian countries where a very large percentage of the plastic in the North Pacific is coming from," she said. "Really make it a priority to have those conversations."

Maui County banned foam foodservice containers made from polystyrene in 2018.

Supporters of the ban said it would protect wildlife, reduce plastic waste on our beaches and in the ocean, and help to combat climate change.

The nonprofit Maui Nui Marine Resource Council hosted a webinar Wednesday to share how Maui County’s 2018 polystyrene ban affected its beaches.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Feb. 4, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation and host of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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