Controversial Bill 40, banning disposable plastics, up for final vote Wednesday
A landmark disposable plastic ban bill, known as Bill 40, is scheduled to go before the City Council on Wednesday for a final vote.
The bill has undergone several revisions, with environmental groups and local food manufacturers and restaurants at odds over how extensive the ban will be and its impact on small businesses.
The latest version addresses the local food industry's concerns, adding exemptions for more items such as:
- Prepackaged items like musubi, bentos and tofu
- Packaging for raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs
- Packaging for grab-and-go items
- Plastic bags and wrappers for poi, crackers, cookies, chips, popcorn and bread
"What will be banned are polystyrene foam containers for eating and drinking, like clam shells and styrofoam cups and things," said Suzanne Frazer, co-founder of environmental group B.E.A.C.H., which was active in pushing for Bill 40. "It will also ban plastic straws, storage, utensils, the plastic grass in sushi and disposable cups, plates, bowls, etc. In addition it's going to close plastic bag loopholes. So the plastic bags for takeout food- that loophole will be closed in this bill and plastic bags for loose fruits and vegetables at the farmers market, those will be gone. We're not meaning the ones without handles. So it's just your plastic checkout bag with handles that will be banned."
Groups like B.E.A.C.H. say they have been working toward a comprehensive bill for Oahu that is on par with laws on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island.
A number of local companies oppose the bill. "The Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association opposes Bill 40 in any form because all drafts fail to clearly define such a broad ban on plastics. The confusing definitions create unintentional consequences that will hurt restaurants and could devastate Hawaii's food manufacturing economy," wrote HFMA President Jimmy Chan in a statement to KITV-4.
Supporters of Bill 40 say the latest version has safety nets designed to protect local jobs and businesses.
A number of local and international celebrities, including Jack Johnson, Kelly Slater and Chris Hemsworth, voiced support for the bill, calling it necessary for fighting ocean pollution.