Last-minute amendment to anti-styrofoam bill

LIHU‘E — A bill that would effectively ban the use and sale of polystyrene foam food service containers faced another amendment yesterday, making the proposed law less strict, and bringing some of the language back to what was initially introduced.

Bill No. 2775 was redrafted for the third time at Wednesday’s Kaua‘i County Council meeting at the recommendation of the county administration.

An amendment from Vice Chair Ross Kagawa removes a provision requiring only compostable and biodegradable products be used in lieu of styrofoam containers.

In July, Councilmember Luke Evslin proposed four amendments that pushed the bill back to the public hearing phase. This second draft delayed the start date to 2022 and included the provision that specified that foodservice containers must meet specific standards as outlined by the American Society of Testing Materials and Biodegradable Products Institute. Kagawa’s amendment removed BPI standards.

Managing Director Michael Dahilig wrote to the council on Tuesday urging the council to reconsider the language of the second draft, preferring the regulatory restrictions of the first draft, which excluded BPI standards.

Dahilig wrote that while the administration does not oppose the idea of requiring compostable and biodegradable food service containers, there wasn’t enough outreach to “develop an administration position.”

“However, any effort to move in this direction needs to include proper collaboration, outreach, and due diligence — the polystyrene ban proposal took months of work with partners and the Council bill introducers,” Dahilig wrote. “The compostables/biodegradables amendment has not had the benefit of taking an opportunity to build broad coalition support.”

The bill was first introduced in February and originally pushed off due to economic uncertainty sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

At least 84 pieces of written testimony in support of the second draft were submitted.

“A last-minute amendment with this deep a business community impact, particularly in light of the deep economic downturn we are experiencing due to the COVID-19 Pandemic National Emergency, may be ill-timed given the economic capacity of our small restaurant businesses to shift business practices beyond what was initially envisioned int he original bill language,” Dahilig wrote.

One part that didn’t sit well with opponents to the bill was the term “biodegradable.”

Members of Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai‘i, a nonprofit that brings awareness and solutions to the problem of marine debris on Hawai‘i beaches, suggested removing the term. Some biodegradable standards, the group explained during public testimony, are not strict enough and still have traces of polystyrene, which do not break down.

Many business owners also submitted voicemail testimony in opposition to the second draft, citing this bill would add additional stress to the already prevalent struggles to stay running during the pandemic.

Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro voted in opposition to the bill, which passed out of the Committee of the Whole yesterday afternoon.

“It’s a difficult time to be putting more restrictions on more businesses,” Kaneshiro said. “This is a time we need to be more business-friendly; we have restaurants that are going out of business. There’s no end in sight.”

If passed, Kaua‘i would become the county the fourth in Hawai‘i to approve a ban on prohibiting single-use plastics following Maui, O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island. Bill No. 2775, Draft 3 will be up for second and final reading at the next meeting on Wed., Aug. 26.


Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or

  1. Everythingisawesome August 21, 2020 11:50 am Reply

    Sounds very confusing. Will it cost anything to enforce this? Of course it will. Nothing is free.

    Hard to believe that anyone would be opposed to this now that alternative non-plastic solutions are readily available. The consumer always pays…pass on any cost to the consumer. For businesses that are on life support, this will neither save nor kill them.

    Dear Kauai,
    Please use non-plastic based utensils and containers for your food service needs. The island and your customers will thank you for it.

    There, I fixed it for you.

  2. M Malone August 21, 2020 8:45 pm Reply

    With public school meals being offered again as a grab and go, I am sadly reminded about last spring’s distribution twice a day served in a large styrofoam clamshell, but also inside were smaller styrofoam containers of individual sauces, etc. I am so grateful that this food is available for our keiki, but shocked at the outrageous amount of styrofoam waste involved.
    Hopefully the DOE will make the change even if the law doesn’t force them to stop using toxic containers. Besides polluting the environment, this poison seeps into the food and then is in our bodies. Let’s make healthy choices, especially for the children, even if there isn’t a law making us do he right thing.

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