The City Council is looking at banning single-use plastic utensils and bags. The bill passed its first reading Wednesday. If adopted, the ban could take affect as early as January.

Getting a plate lunch in a styrofoam container and sipping a soda from a plastic straw could soon be a thing of the past if a new ban is approved by Honolulu City Council

Council member Joey Manahan introduced the bill.

“I really don’t think they’re benefiting anybody at this point–not from a health standpoint or an economic standpoint,” Manahan said.

Manahan explained that the growing problem of plastics polluting the environment is just one of the reasons he created the bill.

We have so many plastics on our beaches it’s affecting the environment. We have micro plastics that are being eaten by fish, they get ingested by people. For keiki, it’s not good for a beach. It’s not good for the animals.”

The ban would include styrofoam containers, single use plastic utensils including forks, spoons, knives, straws and even some plastic bags.

“I realize that some of the items that are listed in the bill may be a little bit tougher and there might be some room to compromise but we really need to show some leadership especially as it pertains to Styrofoam containers and single use plastics,”

Attempts to ban styrofoam and plastics have tried and failed in the past. Manahan said he is hopeful now that there are two new members on the city council

Those who oppose the ban say it raises health concerns, is costly and ultimately doesn’t do enough to reduce waste.

In written testimony, Adrian Hong, president of Island Plastic Bags Inc. said:

“Restaurants, bakeries, and other businesses that provide prepared food were exempted from previous bans because the use of single use, plastic bags for them is a sanitation issue.”

The Hawaii Food Industry Association Executive Director Lauren Zirbel said:

“In addition to being more expensive…alternatives to plastic utensils are also not always available in the quantities that Oahu businesses need…Bans like this may reduce one kind of waste, but it is just replaced with a different kind.”

The bill will be heard by the public safety committee at the end of August and will go before the full council again in September.

If it passes, it could take affect January 2020.