Hawaii makes moves towards eliminating single-use plastic items

In a joint hearing last week, the Hawaii state legislature amended a bill that would have banned single-use plastic bottles, utensils, stirring sticks, bags and straws.

Instead of the ban, the Hawaii State House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, along with the House judiciary committee, voted to create a working group that would make recommendations on eliminating single-use plastic.

If the bill passes, it would also create a position in the state’s department of health for a solid waste prevention coordinator.

The chamber of commerce of Hawaii, which represents over 2,000 businesses in the state, said that this was a good move at this time.

“We’re still keeping an eye on that bill to see what the end result will be. But we’re pleased at the current decision of those chairs to decide that this is probably not the right time or the right way to approach the issue, rather let’s talk it out and see where we can come to a compromise, a conclusion, by including all stakeholders,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara.

In the same joint hearing, the House committees also deferred another bill that would have banned the sale of foam food service containers statewide.

Virgie de Guzman, who owns 3-star gourmet restaurant II with her husband Art, says that their business is prepared to handle any laws that may ban the use of single-use plastic and styrofoam.

“I think we will be starting also not giving straws, but sometimes they keep on asking, if they requesting… but if this one goes on, i think it’s better… we want to be green also. If possible, that’s why we are using dinner plates here, the glasses – regular glasses, and we only offer styrofoam container if it’s to-go.”

Some opponents of the plastic ban have argued that there are currently no cost-effective substitutes for plastic packaging and have called for better recycling and waste management resources from the state.

Meanwhile, those who have turned in testimony to support the ban on single-use plastics and styrofoam say that the ban would aid the state to transition to more sustainable materials, as well as protect the ocean and the land.

“We know that we need to protect our environment. But simply placing a mandate on employers, we believe, is not the solution. So this working group – by bringing in different stakeholders together, at least we can have a thorough and substantive discussion to see how we can come up with solutions collectively.”

Senate Bill 522 has been referred to the house committee on finance. It also cites a move that California’s San Diego County made in January 2019 to phase out polysterene foam and other single-use plastics.

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