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City ban on single-use plastics moves forward

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A bill that would ban foam containers and plastics used for serving food on Oahu passed out of the Honolulu City Council’s Public Safety and Welfare Committee on Thursday, buoying the hopes of the environmentally conscious who worry plastics are polluting beaches, breaking down into microplastics that are ingested by sea life and contributing to climate change.

Bill 40, which is being opposed by the restaurant industry, faces additional hearings in order to pass. But advocates of the measure hope that with the changed composition of the City Council this year, it has a chance.

“For me, we have gone down this road for how long and we have never really done anything that has been meaningful,” Councilman Joey Manahan, who introduced the bill, told the Honolulu Star- Advertiser.

“We need to do something. We need to show leadership.”

In recent years previous attempts to ban foam or other noncompostable items have failed.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association, which represents more than 3,600 restaurants, submitted testimony against the bill, saying that switching away from plastics would increase costs for businesses and consumers. The trade group also argued that paper straws aren’t durable and have an aftertaste, compostable utensils often break and paper bags don’t contain spills like gravy from hot foods.

Manahan said he wasn’t buying the cost argument, saying the industry “always uses that scare tactic.”

“In Honolulu we are a wealthy city. We are not a Third World country. We are part of the United States, right?” he said, noting that there have been plastic bans in more impoverished countries like the Philippines. “What I’m saying is if it’s just a matter of us not being able to afford anything more than plastics, then I think that is ridiculous.”

The bill now heads to the full City Council for a hearing.

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