Monday July 22, 2019

Hawaii Weighs First State in US to Ban Plastics Used at Restaurants

Dozens of cities across the country have banned plastic foam containers, but Hawaii's measure would make it the first to do so statewide

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Belinda Lau, manager of the Wiki Wiki Drive Inn takeout restaurant in Honolulu, holds a polystyrene foam box containing an order of roast pork, rice and salad, March 14, 2019. VOA

Hawaii would be the first state in the U.S. to ban most plastics used at restaurants under legislation that aims to cut down on waste that pollutes the ocean.

Hawaii would be the first state in the U.S. to ban most plastics at restaurants under legislation that aims to cut down on waste that pollutes the ocean.

Dozens of cities across the country have banned plastic foam containers, but Hawaii’s measure would make it the first to do so statewide. The liberal state has a history of prioritizing the environment — it’s mandated renewable energy use and prohibited sunscreen ingredients that harm coral.

A second, more ambitious proposal would go even further and prohibit fast-food and full-service restaurants from distributing and using plastic drink bottles, utensils, stirring sticks, bags and straws.

The Hawaii efforts would be stricter than in California, which last year became the first state to ban full-service restaurants from automatically giving out plastic straws, and broader than in Seattle, San Francisco and other cities that have banned some single-use plastics.

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Activists believe the foam container measure has a better chance of passing in Hawaii. VOA

“We have this reputation of setting the example for the world to follow, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” state Sen. Mike Gabbard, lead author of the more ambitious measure, said to the Senate. “Our state can once again take the lead in protecting our environment.”

Gabbard, father of Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, said 95 percent of plastic packaging worldwide is thrown out after being used once. In the U.S., 500 million plastic straws are used and thrown out every day, he said.

Discarded, slow-to-degrade plastic is showing up at sea, as in a massive gyre northeast of the Hawaiian islands, and on beaches.

Plastics also contribute to climate change because oil is used to make them, said Stuart Coleman, Hawaii manager for the Surfrider Foundation.

Eric S.S. Wong, co-owner of two fast-food establishments on Oahu, said not being able to serve food in plastic foam containers would drive up his costs at a time when he faces rising health insurance charges for his employees and a possible minimum wage hike that lawmakers also are considering.

He said he’ll have to raise prices.

“Now all of the sudden, your family’s $30 dining experience became $37 or $38,” Wong said.

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Hawaii would be the first state in the U.S. to ban most plastics at restaurants under legislation that aims to cut down on waste that pollutes the ocean. Pixabay

His Wiki Wiki Drive Inn takeout counter in Honolulu sells sandwiches, breakfast meals and Hawaii favorites like Loco Moco, which features white rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg and gravy.

A package of 200 foam boxes costs him $23, while the same number of biodegradable boxes would cost $57, he said.

Chris Yankowski of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, which represents 3,500 restaurants, said lawmakers are trying to do “too much too fast.”

Yankowski, who is also president of Triple F Distributors, argued that good alternatives to plastic products are not yet available. Hawaii’s cities and counties also don’t provide composting facilities, so there is no organized place to dispose of compostable containers that lawmakers say restaurants should use instead, he added.

“It’s almost like we want to do great things for the environment, but we’re not ready to handle it when we change it over,” Yankowski said.

The Hawaii Food Industry Association, which counts the state’s biggest supermarkets and convenience stores as members, initially opposed the foam container ban but now supports it.

The group said in written testimony that it’s encountered difficulties coping with varied local regulations and it wants the state to create a consistent standard. Two main counties — Hawaii and Maui — have already adopted plastic foam bans. Maui’s took effect on Dec. 31, while Hawaii’s takes effect on July 1.

The association still opposes the broader measure, which also would ban plastic garbage bags.

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A second, more ambitious proposal would go even further and prohibit fast-food and full-service restaurants from distributing and using plastic drink bottles, utensils, stirring sticks, bags and straws. Pixabay

The president of Island Plastic Bags, a Hawaii company that makes plastic bags, said the legislation would prohibit his company from selling trash bags to nursing homes and hospitals as well as restaurants and hotels.

Grocery stores wouldn’t be able to sell trash can liners, Adrian Hong said in written testimony. It would create a “public health crisis,” he said.

Gabbard said his proposal was in the early stages so lawmakers have time to address such concerns.

The state Senate has passed both bills. They still must get through several House committees and the full House before heading to the governor.

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Cindy McMillan, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige, said he hasn’t stated a position on the measures yet.

Justin Macia, a pharmacist in Honolulu, said he would like people to use less plastic and stop using plastic foam entirely because of how long it takes to degrade. Cardboard containers would be a great alternative, he said.

“It’s definitely something that’s got to go,” he said, after eating a sandwich from a foam takeout box. (VOA)

Next Story

Hawaii Eruption Could Last Years, Destroy New Areas: Geologists

A 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) lava river now flows to the ocean from this "source cone" through an elevated channel about 52 to 72 feet (16 to 22 meters) above ground

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Darryl Sumiki, 52, of Hilo, watches as lava lights up the sky above Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, June 2, 2018. (VOA)

The eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano could last for months or years and threaten new communities on the Big Island, according to a report by U.S. government geologists.

A main risk is a possible change in the direction of a lava flow that would destroy more residential areas after at least 712 homes were torched and thousands of residents forced to evacuate since Kilauea began erupting on May 3, the report by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

A higher volume of molten rock is flowing underground from Kilauea’s summit lava reservoir than in previous eruptions, with supply to a single giant crack — fissure 8 — showing no sign of waning, according to the study published last week.

“If the ongoing eruption maintains its current style of activity at a high eruption rate, then it may take months to a year or two to wind down,” said the report designed to help authorities on the Big Island deal with potential risks from the volcano.

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In this July 17, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, sunrise is seen over the Kilauea volcano lower East Rift Zone in Hawaii. (VOA)

Lava is bursting from same area about 25 miles (40 km) down Kilauea’s eastern side as it did in eruptions of 1840, 1955 and 1960, the report said. The longest of those eruptions was in 1955. It lasted 88 days, separated by pauses in activity.

The current eruption could become the longest in the volcano’s recorded history, it added.

Geologists believe previous eruptions may have stopped as underground lava pressure dropped due to multiple fissures opening up in this Lower East Rift Zone, the report said.

The current eruption has coalesced around a single fissure, allowing lava pressure to remain high.

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Lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, June 5, 2018. (VOA)

A 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) lava river now flows to the ocean from this “source cone” through an elevated channel about 52 to 72 feet (16 to 22 meters) above ground.

“The main hazard from the source cone and the channel system is a failure of the cone or channel walls, or blockage of the channel where it divides in narrower braids. Either could divert most, if not all, of the lava to a new course depending on where the breach occurs,” the report said.

Also Read: Hawaii Could Face Volcanic Smog, Acid Rain

The report said it only considered risks from a change in lava flow direction to communities to the north of the channel as residents there have not been evacuated, whereas residents to the south have already left their homes. (VOA)