Bill to ban styrofoam again heads to city council

On the heels of a plastic bag ban on Oahu, could a Styrofoam ban be next?

A Honolulu city council member has introduced a bill that aims to do just that.

It has been proposed before by both county and state lawmakers for Oahu and Hawaii Island.

Maui County passed a ban on styrofoam that goes into effect at the end of 2018.

Councilwoman Kymberly Pine introduced this latest bill saying it’s a threat to our ecosystem and the health and welfare of the community.

However, opponents said banning styrofoam isn’t the answer.

The proposal would ban all food vendors from serving food in styrofoam containers. This includes packaging for products like eggs, meats, baked goods and other food items.

“This is really about the future of Hawaii and ensuring that this current Hawaii that we know, that’s beautiful and healthy, remains the same,” Pine said.

The proposal also states any disposable containers must be made of compostable material.

Environmental group 808 Cleanups is supportive of the measure. Their volunteers said they often find styrofoam around the island and washed up on beaches.

“Styrofoam is one of those things that we like to find least because we know the impact that it will have,” Fawn Liebengood, a volunteer with the group, said. “It will be around for hundreds of thousands of years.”

Not everyone is supportive of this bill. The Retail Merchants of Hawaii told KHON2 it’s concerned about the financial impact this potential ban could have on local businesses.

“It takes away the use [of these containers] for a lot of these mom and pop businesses that are on a very tight budget already. Shipping to Hawaii is very expensive. These [compostable material] containers are a lot heavier than the polystyrene so you’re going to be paying a lot more for shipping,” Tina Yamaki with Retail Merchants of Hawaii said.

Yamaki said that the added expense would likely be passed onto the consumer meaning a higher price for your plate lunch.

Pine said there are already 128 restaurants in Hawaii that have made the switch from styrofoam containers to a more earth-friendly alternative.

“Most of them are mom and pops and they’re doing it and they’re showing that this is not affecting them and that they’re still doing very well,” Pine said.

We reached out to a styrofoam manufacturer, Hawaii Finest Products. The company said the real issue is people littering.

In a statement, the company said: “Instead of ban bills, we need to focus on reducing Hawaii’s impact on the ocean. We need to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the ocean by focusing on what’s causing the litter.”

There is a part in the proposal that allows for an exemption from the ban if you can show that it would create an undue hardship.

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