The controversial bill 40, to ban single-use plastic takeout containers and utensils in Hawai'i, passed on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
It is now heading for Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s desk to be reviewed before signing into law.
Over 30 testimonies were heard by the full City Council before a majority of the city council members (7-2) voted in support.
Supporters of the bill such as Sustainable Coastlines had over 10,000 signatures from individual residents and organizations. Lauren Watanabe, group leader of Sierra Club O‘ahu Group said in her testimony that the organization had over 8,000 signatures from the O‘ahu youth in full support of the bill.
“It becomes an existential threat to our lives, this is a step towards ending dependence on fossil fuels,” Watanabe said in her testimony.
Although a majority of testifiers last night were in full support of Bill 40, concerns continue to be raised by business owners. Some claim the bill's language is still too ambiguous and vague as to what is fully banned.
One opponent included Jimmy Chan of Hawaiian Chip Company who say “plastics provide a better moisture barrier” to keep chips fresh.
“Not all business owners are able to afford the change, but we applaud the effort (from other companies),” Chan said in his testimony.
In the final discussion of the hearing, Councilmember Hedi Tsuneyoshi would vote yes, but with reservations.
“The reservation is really just to say that as we move forward in this new direction that you (youth activists) have helped to forge today, we do need to also consider concerns with the implementation and the enforcement of the legislation… I think as legislatures we have to look to the understandability for the enforcement and implementation of this measure,” Tsuneyoshi said.
Additional amendments were made to the FD1 aimed by Councilmember Joey Manahan moments before the hearing which included an extension dates on the following phase out plan:
Bill 40 Phase Out Dates
July 1, 2020: By Request Only
Food vendors must ask if customers want single-use plastic foodservice products (utensils, straws,stirrers); cannot automatically be included in an order anymore.
July 1, 2020: Plastic bags for food takeout
are no longer allowed.
Jan. 1, 2021: Plastic Service Ware
must be replaced by a plastic-free alternative and still only be provided By Request Only. This applies to: stirrers, straws, baran (sushi grass), and utensils including forks, spoons, sporks, and knives, that contain plastic.
Jan. 1, 2021: Polystyrene Foam Food Ware
(including their plastic lids) cannot be used or provided by food vendors to customers. This includes: hot and cold beverage cups, plates, bowls, “clamshells,” trays, or other hinged or lidded containers that are made of polystyrene foam.
Jan. 1, 2022: ALL Plastic Food Ware
(including their plastic lids) cannot be used or provided by food vendors to customers. This includes: hot and cold beverage cups, plates, bowls, “clamshells,” trays, or other hinged or lidded containers that contain fossil-fuel derived plastic.
Following the passing of Bill 40 at the full City Council hearing, Surfrider Foundation, O‘ahu Chapter, celebrated at RevoluSun Smart Home’s retail location at SALT in Kaka’ako where Councilmembers Manahan and Tommy Waters made a surprise visit.
“I’m really grateful to everybody who really supported it (Bill 40) and pushed it, I meant it today when I said that you (youth activists) were my true north, my guiding star, my Hōkūleʻa,” Manahan said, “You kept us strong throughout the process and it was tough… today was a huge win.”
Surfrider member coordinating Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, Natalie Wohner and graduate student at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa said that we need legislation for change in order for businesses to take responsibility for plastic pollution, not just consumers.
“We’re trying to highlight the restaurants that are already doing the right thing not using any single-use plastics and this program is crucial in showing the industry that it’s possible to be without these items,” Wohner said.
She did raise concerns about the bill only addressing fossil-fuel based plastic and that society will just “switch to another single-use item.”
“We should get away from the single-use culture in general and I hope that we can kind of focus on some reusable alternatives,” Wohner said, “this bill is so crucial if we want to see environmental change for the better.”