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Senate bill to ban plastic straws in Hawaii passes committee

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HONOLULU -

Most food and drink establishments have them, but a senate bill that would get rid of plastic straws in Hawaii is moving forward. 

The bill passed the Committee on Agriculture and Environment Wednesday afternoon. 

"This law can start a ripple effect if straws are banned from companies like McDonald's and Starbucks," said Riley Brooke Kamahele, a 10-year-old who runs a non-profit called the The Plastics Project.  

Kamahele was just one of many who testified in support of the bill. 

"Plastic straws are absolutely one of the most picked up and littered items we find," said Rafael Bergstrom, of the Surfrider Foundation as he talked about beach clean-ups. 

Kathleen Penland, who submitted testimony on behalf of Hawaii Association for Behavior Analysis, also supports the plastic straw ban.  

"It's harming our animals it's harming our honu, and it's polluting our beaches, terribly," said Penland.  

The bill would outlaw the sale and distribution of plastic straws in Hawaii-- any violators would be fined. Violators will also be required to pick up litter or perform community service. 

"You don't need to use them, except in very limited circumstances," said Sen. Karl Rhoads (D- District 13) 

Sen. Rhoads sponsored the bill. 

"There's other ways to make straws from things that are biodegradable and not from plastic," said Sen. Rhoads. 

Environmental groups suggested glass, stainless steel, bamboo, and paper straws as options to consider.  

"Many of these alternatives are not simple and it is not practical at this point in time," said Victor Lim, of Hawaii Restaurant Association.  

Despite alternatives to plastic, the Hawaii Restaurant Association and Hawaii Food Industry Association testified against the bill. 

"If you're driving in the car, if you have a toddler, things like that, it can be difficult to just have an open container a lot of the times," said Lauren Zirbil, of Hawaii Food Industry Association.  

Supporters argue- with Americans using 500-million straws a day-- it's time to think about the greater good. 

"We need to stop placing importance on convenience and start looking at the bigger picture," said Kamahele. 

The bill now moves on to the joint Ways and Means and Judiciary committees.  
 

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