Honolulu Passes Strict Single-Use Plastics Ban

The bill, passed 7-2, bans businesses and restaurants from using plastic straws and utensils and serving food and beverages in containers made of polystyrene foam.

The bill, passed 7-2, bans businesses and restaurants from using plastic straws and utensils and serving food and beverages in containers made of polystyrene foam. Shutterstock

 

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The Honolulu City Council last week passed a sweeping single-use plastics ban that affects the entire island of Oahu, home to 70 percent of Hawaii residents.

The Honolulu City Council last week passed a sweeping ban on single-use plastics, an aggressive policy that advocates said was necessary to adequately protect the environment on Hawaii’s most populous island.

The council voted 7-2 to pass Bill 40, which bans businesses and restaurants from using plastic straws and utensils and serving food and beverages in containers made of polystyrene foam. The bill will be phased in, with polystyrene foam banned in 2021 and single-use plastic following in 2022.

The measure covers Honolulu County, which includes all of Oahu, home to 70 percent of Hawaii residents.

Businesses who violate the law can be fined up to $1,000 per day, though exemptions are available for establishments that can’t find “acceptable alternatives.” The law also exempts a number of single-use plastics, including garment bags, newspaper bags and plastic wrap for meat, produce or flowers.

Other Hawaiian islands, including the Big Island, Maui and Molokai, had previously banned foam containers. Honolulu County had also previously banned plastic bags in grocery stores, and lawmakers saw the new law as the continuation of that work, according to the legislation.

“The city and county of Honolulu … is a recognized leader in developing responsible waste management policies and programs. In order to protect health, life, and property and preserve the order and security of the city and its inhabitants, ordinances have been enacted to regulate the use of plastic and non-recyclable paper bags provided to customers,” the bill’s introduction says. “In continuing to strive for responsible waste management policies and programs, the city must address the provision of single-use plastic goods.”

The city council joins legislative bodies in at least 34 states this year that have passed or considered bills related to limiting the use of single-use plastics and foam containers. 

The bill had garnered strong support from students, residents and environmental groups but attracted opposition from the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce and industry trade groups, which said the measure was far-reaching and would be difficult to comply with and to enforce.

“Many of the definitions in this bill have problems that will make it hard for businesses to implement, and hard for the department to enforce consistently,” Lauren Zirbel, executive director of the Hawaii Food Industry Association, told the Associated Press.

But support for the bill had increased during the legislative process, particularly after lawmakers added amendments that allowed for exemptions. At the time of its passage, Council member Joey Manahan, the bill’s main sponsor, said that he had come to view the legislation as a community effort.

“This bill is no longer mine. It is everyone’s,” he said. “We are talking about the well-being of our (country), our oceans, and our planet.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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