LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County, the last county in the state to pass a bill that would prohibit the sale and use of styrofoam foodservice containers, will join the others with it’s own ban in 2022.
On Wednesday, the Kaua‘i County Council passed Bill 2775 by a 4-2 vote, with Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and Vice Chair Ross Kagawa voting in opposition to the third draft, citing the hardships a ban could cause to small businesses.
“I’ve always, throughout my entire time in council, been hesitant about government mandates like this,” Kaneshiro said. He said polystyrene only makes up about 0.04% of waste in the landfill, so concerns about filling the landfill are limited. “It’s not the right time to add this stress to (restaurant owners).”
The bill first came up in February, and was deferred to the summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. When it came back up 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 from January 2021 and included the provision that specified that foodservice containers must meet specific biodegradable standards.
This draft received some push back from both those in support of a ban and those against it, many citing the on-going pandemic.
Managing Director Michael Dahilig wrote to the council in August asking to go back to the less strict language of the first draft.
“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 in the original bill language,” Dahilig wrote.
Kagawa’s amendment at a meeting in August removed a provision requiring only compostable and biodegradable products be used in lieu of styrofoam containers and bringing some of the language back to what was initially introduced.
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, spoke in support of Bill 2775 Draft 3 at Wednesday’s meeting.
In written testimony, Nanea Marston, part-owner of Tahiti Nui wrote that the restaurant has only used compostable products for over a decade.
“We believe it is not only an option but an obligation to our community, our land and our oceans,” Marston wrote. “We are an island, there is zero reason we should not already be doing this.”
Councilmember Mason Chock was happy to see the bill pass, noting it’s a small step the island can make toward helping the environment. He said the county has already discontinued its use of styrofoam and single-use plastics and urged others to do the same.
Evslin, who had proposed a stricter draft of the bill, said he was disappointed the bill didn’t go further but knew it was the right direction, despite the ongoing pandemic’s impact.
Marie Francoise, a school teacher, submitted testimony and even included student opinions. Students cited concerns for animals, the environment and even suggested alternatives, like cardboard and glass. Many students drew pictures of oceanscapes.
“They are the future voters,” Francoise wrote in her testimony.