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Mayor Kirk Caldwell reaffirms support for plastics ban

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell Thursday reaffirmed that he will likely sign a bill approved by the City Council Wednesday that would ban most food-service type, single-use plastics on Oahu by 2022.

“I support removing single-use plastics from the waste stream and reducing dependence on oil-based products, and I believe this legislation strikes a fair balance,” Caldwell said in a statement. The bill is currently under a standard legal review but assuming there are no issues, “I will sign it into law,” he said.

Caldwell has 10 working days to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

Bill 40 would impose the strictest plastics ban in the state because it includes not just polystyrene foam containers, but food containers of all plastics, and also includes forks, spoons, knives and other “service ware.”

Environmentalists, bolstered by a good number of college and high school students, are pushing for the law’s passage, arguing the harmful effects plastics have on the air and ocean environments. Food-service businesses, however, oppose the bill because they think it’s too vague, contains conflicting language and is so sweeping that it could force some businesses to close.

The bill’s effective date is Jan. 1, 2021, when plastic service ware would be banned while other types of service ware would be distributed only upon request. The bulk of the prohibitions, however, will take place on Jan. 1, 2022. That would include polystyrene and other plastic plates, bowls and other foodware, as well as the general sale of plastic products to food industry companies, or anyone, unless they have exemptions.

Caldwell, whose Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency has lobbied for the bill, thanked bill introducer Councilman Joey Manahan and Councilman Tommy Waters, who heads the Public Safety and Welfare Committee, for shepherding the bill through its passage.

“Everyone who had a point of view about Bill 40 was allowed to share their thoughts through a vigorous and enthusiastic debate,” Caldwell said. “I appreciate all of the time and effort the food industry devoted to making this a stronger bill, and I was inspired by the care and compassion shown by young adults and others who want to protect our ocean environment and all of the life that depends on it.”

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