Public weighs in on polystyrene

LIHU‘E — On Wednesday, the Kaua‘i County Council held a public hearing for Bill 2775, Draft 2, a bill that will restrict the use and sale of polystyrene foam food-service containers.

The council received 60 written testimonies and five virtual testimonies in support of the Styrofoam bill, which was amended to include a ban on the use of all non-compostable containers in 2022.

“The amendment extends the effective start date of the proposed ordinance to 2022,” said Councilmember Mason Chock, who introduced the bill along with Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i in February.

“Many restaurants have already discontinued or begun transitioning out the use of polystyrene containers, so the suggestion to phase in the effective dates of 2021 for polystyrene and 2022 for all non-compostable (containers) seems feasible,” said Chock.

Victoria Anderson, president of Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai‘i, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that brings awareness and solutions to the problem of marine debris on Hawai‘i beaches, testified in “strong support” of Bill 2775, but voiced support of the first version, not the amended version. Anderson said the second draft contains confusing start dates, requires an only-compostable alternative versus just banning polystryene foam containers.

“BEACH prefers the first draft of the bill, as it has an earlier start date and doesn’t include the requirement for biodegradable or compostable containers,” said Anderson.

Anderson said polystyrene foam is one of the most harmful types of plastic. It breaks into small pieces, easily windblown, and made with toxic chemicals benzene and styrene, which some studies show cause cancer.

“Benzene and styrene leach from these containers when they come into contact with hot, boiling or acidic foods or drinks,” said Anderson. “When polystyrene foam gets into the ocean it rapidly breaks into smaller pieces.”

Anderson said it’s impossible to clean off of the beaches, and plankton and small fish eat the small pieces of plastic.

“BEACH encourages people to bring their own containers made out of glass, stainless steel or ceramic” to restaurants or when buying bulk items, said Anderson.

Another testimony was given by Suzanne Frazer, who, like Anderson, supports the bill and also prefers the first draft.

Frazer said the county should consider taking the word “biodegradable” out of the second draft of the bill because the word has been misused by companies that market their products as biodegradable when they are not.

“I would suggest to avoid any loopholes to take the word out,” said Frazer.

Frazer also voiced opposition to requiring only compostable packaging, pointing out there are many non-plastic alternatives that could be used, and “allowing the vendors to have a wider choice of alternatives will help them make the transition away from plastic containers.”

After the testimonies were heard, the public hearing was adjourned and the council meeting was called to order.

Now that the public has had the chance to comment on amendments to the bill, it will be returning back to a council committee for review.

“The polystyrene ban has been in discussion for many years now, and at this point all other counties have passed their versions of the ban. I am hopeful that the current bill will continue on its current track to being passed by the County Council,” said Chock.

Chock said this bill would allow food providers the ability to use up their current inventory because of the “current increase in takeout, exemptions in place within the bill, and competitive-cost alternatives available.

County Of Kaua‘i Department of Public Works Acting Solid Waste Chief Allison Fraley weighed in with her insight on how polystyrene affects Kaua‘i directly.

“While polystyrene takeout containers represent a small portion of the waste stream on Kaua‘i, this material can have significant negative impacts on the environment if it ends up as litter, and has the potential to harm marine animals and avian populations,” said Fraley.


Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or

  1. truth be known August 8, 2020 7:04 pm Reply

    Let’s hope this bill passes quickly so we can see who votes for or against it before the election. Anyone voting against this bill needs to find another vocation because they certainly don’t care about the environment or their constituency.

    1. Ashley September 13, 2020 6:57 am Reply


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