Banning of Single-Use Plastics Will Take Effect in the Aloha State


Courtesy of C&C of Honolulu

Surfrider Foundation distinguishes from sustainable and harmful packaging with a display.

By Mahealani Deenik, Joby Lum, and Holly Ikeda

With several revisions, the anticipated Bill 40, one of the most restrictive single-use plastic bans in the country, was signed on December 17, 2019, by Mayor Kirk Caldwell. The council passed Bill 40 on a 7-2 vote. Stated by the City & Council, “In order to protect the health, life, and property and preserve the order and security of the City and its inhabitants, ordinances have been enacted to regulate the use of plastic and non-recyclable paper bags provided to customers.”

In continuing to strive for responsible waste management policies and programs, the City must address the provision of single-use plastic goods.” The Bill entails the ban of “plastic checkout bags,” “Plastic film bags,” and “non-compliant food service ware.” The ban will take full effect on January 1, 2022.

Businesses that aren’t compliant with the law will be fined up to $1,000 a day. However, they can file for an exemption if there aren’t adequate non-plastic replacements for particular service ware. Backed by environmentalists, the Bill focuses on regulating the food industry’s waste production with intent to keep litter away from Oahu’s streets, waterways, and oceans. As a result of the ban, businesses will sway towards using paper and plant-based compostable products in substitute for plastic and Styrofoam utensils and containers.

Kamehameha Junior, Kaci Stokes said, “I think that’s a good thing, but there needs to be a strategy for businesses to cope with that, so they’re not just left with nothing.” Targeting sustainability on campus, the National Honors Society recycles many of our high school waste, and Akahi dining hall feeds the students with metal silverware and plates. However, more efforts can still be made to advocate for sustainability on our campus. Kamehameha Senior Teiana Gonsalves states, “I think that we should be more aware of the effect of our consumerism on the environment.” With efforts to promote sustainability on campus, reducing our waste footprint will only be executed if we work together as a whole—students and faculty alike.

Bill 40: The Economic Consequences

Courtesy of C&C of Honolulu
Bill 40 was a law that was passed by the City and County of Honolulu that bans all single use plastic cutlery and bags by the year 2022.

The City and County of Honolulu passed the controversial bill 40 on Dec. 17th, 2019. Let it be known that the reason and emotions behind the bill are all done in good intentions. However, the logistics of the bill and the potential ramifications cast a bleak outlook on the future of the island of Oʻahu including our campus.

Bill 40 prohibits the use of single-use plastic bags, utensils, and styrofoam containers. These are commonplace items used in the food industry and proved to be the most cost-effective choice. Shaka Bowl, a favorite among students, will now have to switch from using plastic cutlery to more eco-friendly/compostable solutions. A change that will affect prices and students.

The price difference between the plastic cutlery versus biodegradable cutlery is the main arguing point against bill 40. Several local retailers of plastic and compostable cutlery declined to comment on the issue. However, online retailer, Global Industrial, has the prices for the two cutlery publicly displayed on their website. Plastic cutlery cost $10.75 per 1,000 packs whereas compostable cutlery cost $83.95 per 1,000. This is a 781% increase in costs. What does this mean for businesses? In order to recover from the price increase of using more biodegradable cutlery, businesses would need to increase the already high prices of meals. This action only snowballs from here.

According to the website of Rainbow Drive-In, the Kapahulu location sells an estimated 1,000 plates a day. Rainbow Drive-In operates 7 days a week, so the company would be spending an approximate total of $2,350.60 on compostable forks alone compared to $301.00 for plastic forks. Sounds crazy right?

If businesses tack on the extra costs of using biodegradable cutlery onto the price of meals, the consumer naturally ends up having to pay more. Even if the price increase is an amount such as 50 cents a meal, the average person who maintained 3 meals a day would end up paying $42.50 more each month. With Hawaiʻi being one of the worst when it comes to homelessness and residents in poverty, this would only make more people become homeless. Families who live paycheck to paycheck would be harmed the most when this ban goes into full effect. If the family has the typical amount of 4 members, the cost difference alone would amount to 170 dollars.

In the event businesses donʻt tack on the extra cost, this means that businesses would lose $73.20 every time they purchase compostable forks alone. Every other piece of compostable cutlery also reflects a significant price jump. The less profit the business makes, the lower the operating budget is for that company until they need to raise the prices of meals or layoff employees. Laying off employees would only add to our homeless population or those below the poverty line.

Bill 40 claims to “help save the environment”, but in a report released by Lesley McClurg of Capital Public Radio, found that the compostable cutlery that is advertised as the eco-friendly solution, doesn’t compost on its own. This cutlery need to be processed in a recycling facility to break down into its original materials or potato spud, cornstarch, etc. She described to readers the observation that when she went to a landfill and searched a pile that was left composting for 5 months, it contained an intact compostable spoon.

Josiah Kaaʻa, a senior, said “I think it’s ridiculous that they make these things “compostable”, but they arenʻt really.

This really brings into question, are these “compostable” cutlery really the solution for saving the environment? Or is it another form of plastic? If we are trying to reduce the amount of single-use plastics, the process should not be a zero-tolerance policy, but a 3-year strategic plan implementing tax breaks for companies making eco-friendly products, research grants, and a tax for plastic products that gradually increases every year. This gives businesses and restaurants time to comply and help develop eco-friendly products that are comparable in price to plastic products and efficient to produce.

The Use of Plastic in Sports, the Effects, the Pros, the Cons

Holly Ikeda
A sports drink left behind on a grass field, is just one of the many single use plastics that are discarded during sporting events.

In recent years plastic has changed sports and the world. However, plastic has negative effects on the environment but at the same time has revolutionized safety in sports.

Plastic has taken a lead in sports safety as most of the safety equipment used such as helmets, mouth guards; shoulder, hip, knee, and thigh pads; cleats, and “performance plastics” (a term used to describe fabrics made with plastic. Items like jerseys, gloves, socks, and pants). When you think about it, some sports revolve around plastic. The fields are made of turf, aka plastic, for easy maintenance.

Equipment used to be made from leather but was eventually replaced with better materials like plastic. The switch was made because the plastic was lighter and safer than leather. These modern advancements in sports safety have allowed players to play harder and go above and beyond.  By making cleats out of plastics, athletes became lighter on their feet and got that edge while running. Plastic is durable, flexible, water-resistant, comfortable, and ultra-light.

But that is just the safety… what has the effect been on the planet? The waste and products produced every game, the little things that add up against the environment? Well, studies show that people around the world buy a total of one million plastic bottles per minute. Not all of it comes from sports but sports do rely on single-use plastics.

A big bulk of single-use plastic comes from pro sporting events. After the game is over, you can walk through the bleachers and see all the beer cups and water bottles, plastic spoons/fork, and straws. To combat this in recent years sports have begun to use and advertise water bottle refill stations so less plastic is tossed away.

To switch out plastic entirely is difficult because there is no alternative. These sports events make a large part of the profit from selling beverages and merchandise.

According to the UN Environment Programme’s list of “10 ways the world of sports is tackling plastic pollution,” some sports have started to spreading awareness and even start to phase out single-use plastics entirely.  A big example of sports trying to combat the use of plastic was when Maracanã stadium, at the Rio 2016 Olympics, used millions of recycled plastic bottles to produce more than 6,700 seats in the stadium. Ribbons that were awarded to athletes were made 50% from plastic bottles.

This story was originally published on Ka Mo’i on February 13, 2020.