Hundreds gather to protest against a stricter ban on plastics

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — More than 200 members of Hawaii’s Food Industry demonstrated against a stricter plastics ban Tuesday. The proposal was heading to final reading but has since been referred back to committee.

The intent of the proposal is to ban plastic utensils and containers normally used for takeouts. Opponents say how it’s written now would ban all plastic food packaging, which would cripple only local food manufacturers.

No bread, snacks, and poi. That’s what hundreds of business owners and employees of the food industry are saying could happen under a stricter plastics ban. They say it’s a ban on all plastic food packaging that would only apply to local food manufacturers, not imported food products from the mainland.

“They get an unfair advantage. Mainland meat, all imported goods, will continue to bring plastics into our islands while local companies will have to raise prices, cut jobs, and even close their doors,” said Jason Higa, CEO of FCH Enterprises which is the parent company of Zippy’s Restaurants.

It’s something Mike Irish, owner of Halm’s Enterprise, Keoki’s Laulau, and Diamond Head Seafood, says could affect them because they use mostly plastic packaging. Under the proposal, there are exemptions but Irish says the process is unclear.

“You see how hard it is to get a building permit here? Just imagine how hard it is to get an exemption,” said Irish.

Lawmakers say the measure was never meant to hurt local businesses. Last week, City Councilman Tommy Waters says he requested the proposal be referred back to the public safety committee that he chairs.

“One of the things we are thinking of doing is taking prepackaged foods off the table,” said Waters. “I have to agree with the businesses the language is confusing and it has to be clarified and I’m willing to do that.”

“I don’t want to commit to any specific language but we are looking at the language that Hawaii County currently has in its ordinance with regards to prepackaged foods,” said City Councilman Joey Manahan.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell says change can be difficult but a stricter ban on plastics needs to be done.

“I think if we get it right, I’ll be signing it as one of the steps we need to take to address our crises in climate,” said Mayor Caldwell.

Waters says a draft will need to be finished by the end of this week to make it into the Public Safety Committee in November. If that does not happen, it could be pushed off beyond December.

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