HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Plastic bags are out. Plastic straws are on their way out.
Now Hawaii lawmakers want to take things a big step further.
They’re considering an outright ban on all sorts of single-use plastics common in the food and beverage industry, from plastic bottles to plastic utensils to plastic containers.
Senate Bill 522 has already passed through two committees and is on its way to two more.
Supporters say it’s an ambitious and broad measure that would position Hawaii as a leader in the nation ― and ensure that Hawaii’s oceans have a fighting chance as the global plastic pollution problem worsens.
But others worry about the practicality of such a proposal.
How, for example, would you go about distributing water in emergency situations without plastic bottles? Would companies have to produce special packaging for Hawaii? And what would food establishments use instead of plastic?
Those questions aren’t clarified in the measure ― though they’ll undoubtedly have to be addressed as the measure continues its way through the Legislature.
The bill does have an implementation schedule, though.
It would ban state and county agencies from buying, using or distributing single-use plastic foodware (including beverage containers, utensils, straws and polystyrene foam containers) by July 2021.
The ban would extend to food establishments and hotels by the following year.
In 2023, a statewide plastic bag ban would go into effect.
And by 2025, no individual or business in Hawaii could sell or “otherwise provide” single-use plastic beverage containers in Hawaii.
Several counties have already targeted single-use plastics.
Plastic bags are already banned in all Hawaii counties. And Maui and Hawaii counties have bans on polystyrene food containers.
Those who support the much broader state proposal say drastic action is needed to cut down on plastic pollution, and Hawaii can be at the forefront of a movement to address a global crisis.
But opponents include businesses and industry associations, who say alternatives to plastic are hard to find, impractical and expensive.
“Something like this could put us out of business,” wrote Aaron Wolfe, owner of Tsujenko’s, in testimony.