Hawaii Restaurant Association among other organizations to submit application to City for 2 year extension to plastic ban

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Time is running out for Oahu businesses to give out plastic utensils, straws and bags for takeout.

The City and County of Honolulu will begin enforcing the ban in two weeks.

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However, retail and restaurant associations are once again pleading with the City and County of Honolulu for more time.

The ban became law on January first, but because of hardships caused by the pandemic, the City and County of Honolulu granted businesses a 90 day “education” period, which expires on March 31.

Businesses say they are not opposed to the law, they just need more time to make the switch. Some businesses like Odori-ko are still using up their supplies of plastic boxes and plastic utensils. The owner says transitioning to environmentally friendly supplies isn’t a viable option for them right now.

“We’ve been looking around for a while at environmentally friendly takeout box options and they range from 50% to 75% more expensive,” said Hiro Takei, owner of Odori-ko restaurant. “So, a box of takeout that I can purchase for $12, it’s about $22 the last time i saw it. It’s really expensive.”

He said there is a similar cost difference for utensils and straws, and that extra cost could increase food prices by a dollar or more.

“To survive, I think those costs do have to be passed on to the customers, but these are customers that have had financial hardship for the past year as well,” said Takei.

Takei said he’s willing to make the change, just not now.

“The intention of the law is good, I don’t question that it’s for a good cause. I would agree with it, but just let us catch our breath, recover a bit.”

Hiro Takei, Odori-ko Owner

Due to these hardships, the Hawaii Restaurant Association, Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Retail Merchants of Hawaii and Hawaii Food Industry Association are submitting an application for a two year industry exemption to the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Services.

“With COVID, theres a whole world of change big time for us,” said Victor Lim, with the Hawaii Restaurant Association. “Businesses got clobbered. You know our industry is probably on its life support right now.”

City Council Member Brandon Elefante, who voted for the ordinance, said he understands it can be a difficult time for businesses, but he believes it’s the right time to transition away from plastics.

“I felt like this is a long time coming, that people were aware and planning for this change in our law. So, the three months in delay of education, in my opinion, I thought would have been sufficient,” said Elefante.

He said we still need to consider the long lasting impacts of using plastics, while balancing the need that businesses have under the pandemic.

“We understand there’s a transition and cost added to it,” said Elefante. “But at the same time, we also have to look at the long term effects. That’s you know how do we be a good steward of protecting our environment?”

Takei said if the City and County of Honolulu does move forward with the March 31 deadline, they should help businesses.

“How about a tax break?” said Takei. “How about a subsidy? You know just some way to offset the expense,to spread out the responsibility amongst more people than just small restaurant businesses like mine.”

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