Today, on the Kauai County Council Agenda is Bill 2775, a measure introduced by Councilmembers Mason Chock and KipuKai Kuali‘i that would effectively ban the use of most styrofoam or polystyrene fast-food containers. This in my opinion is a very good thing (and this is an opinion column for those that are concerned about my offering an opinion).
If passed into law, Kauai would be the last of the 4 counties in Hawaii to enact such an ordinance.
It will be interesting to watch and listen to the various council members during the potentially lively debate.
While I am hopeful that all will see the wisdom of such a move and the vote will be unanimous in support, I suspect there are still a handful on the council that remain stuck in the dark ages.
Those of us who follow such things, and are familiar with the various personalities who will be at the table discussing the merits and passage of Bill 2775, can almost predict how the conversation will go.
At least one council-member will I am sure, pontificate loudly on camera about the few pennies more this may cost consumers, about how government should stay out of these decisions, and about how this is not the counties responsibility.
Predictably, another council-member will talk about how this is just another government burden for business and we should let the market and consumer choice decide. And a third member, no doubt with an angry scowl will simply repeat what the other two said.
That of course is assuming they show up. Regulars who follow the Council know that it’s not uncommon for one particular Councilmember to simply leave the Council chambers when confronted with situations, issues or people that he does not want to deal with. Another of the council-members is known for frequently skipping meetings altogether.
Fortunately there will be at least 4 others at the table with attitudes that are a bit more enlightened. They will speak of the current disastrous situation surrounding Kauai’s landfill and solid waste management in general.
Likely they will also acknowledge that the passage of Bill 2775 will not result in a huge diversion of waste, but is a meaningful step in the right direction.
It also seems probable that a Councilmember or two might throw out other “next steps” in the ongoing effort to better manage Kauai’s solid waste AND increase/improve recycling efforts.
Other Councilmembers in support of the proposal will speak of the harm to our natural environment that is caused by the pervasive use of plastics that never entirely degrade or decompose.
In rebuttal to “the sky is falling” arguments waged by those in opposition, the proponents on the Council will point to all of the other places in the world that have already taken the step to ban polystyrene fast-food containers. They will further attempt to assuage the concerns of the naysayers (but I think will not be unsuccessful in doing so), by pointing out that those other places that have already passed such legislation have not incurred catastrophic price increases in the cost of a plate lunch or bento box.
Today’s initial introduction will make for interesting viewing that is for sure. I encourage residents (and especially those who read TGI early in the morning) to rush on down to the Historical County building to watch the show, and to offer your testimony on the issue.
Please also while you are at it, offer a mahalo to Councilmembers Mason Chock and KipuKai Kuali‘i for introducing this forward thinking measure.
Since, I am in the predicting mood, I will also predict that at least one Councilmember will be in support, but be inclined to say “This is not enough and we should do more.” It’s true of course. We should in fact do more but it is a judgement call as to how big an incremental step can and should be taken.
What is too big a bite (politically and pragmatically), and what is too small a step are constant questions that must be answered when contemplating any new legislation such as this. This question and the other issues raised above are all items to be discussed and evaluated during the public hearing process that is yet to come.
My final prediction of the day: The above discussion will occur as predicted but at the end of the day, the concerns of the various Councilmember’s will be aired and addressed, the Bill will be amended and refined and strengthened and the vote will be unanimous in support.
OK, gotta admit it…a 5 to 2 vote is probably more likely.
If for whatever reason you are unable to attend the meeting today in person, please take some time to watch it via “webcast” on the Council website:
Gary Hooser formerly served in the Hawaii State Senate, where he was Majority Leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.