State lawmaker to reintroduce bill to ban plastic straws, Styrofoam containers

KITV - January 10, 2019
Diane Ako

HONOLULU - It's estimated some 500 million single-use plastic straws are used in this country every day. Activists say it's bad for the environment, often threatening marine life and adding to the nation's growing landfills.

Hawaii tried to ban plastic straws and Styrofoam containers, but failed, last year. Senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the 2018 bill, plans to reintroduce the idea when the Legislature convenes this session. If it passes, the law could cost you, every day.

You can get you same cup of joe - now with a side of sustainability - at this Kakaako cafe. Peter Anderson, owner of Morning Brew Coffee & Bistro in Kakaako and Kailua, says of his decision to go 'ocean-friendly' as he calls it, eight months ago, "I think it's critical. We have to do it in this day and age with what's going on globally: climate change, global warming."

Everything from its to-go cups to the containers are compostable, plant based material. Anderson says he's working now to switch over the utensils from plastic to biodegradable PLA (polylactic acid).

It's more expensive. Anderson estimates, "Cup to cup, it's about a ten to 12 cent difference. With take-out containers, which are larger, maybe a little more than that."

Customers we talked to say they are willing to pay the price to help the environment. "I'm willing to, if it's going to help the environment," says patron Anthony Mayorga, while sipping a coffee. "I think most people are willing."

That's what one lawmaker wants to hear. Sen. Mike Gabbard (D-20 Kapolei, Makakilo, Portions of Ewa, Kalaeloa and Waipahu) will introduce a bill to ban single-use plastic straws and Styrofoam containers. "We know what that does to our beaches, our marine life and everything," he says.
Gabbard tried last session, but the bill didn't pass. If it fails again, he wants to raise awareness for alternatives. "For straws, here it is," as he brings one of his briefcase. "Stainless steel straws, get one of these."

The Hawaii Restaurant Association says it currently has no comment on the proposed bill. Last year, the HRA, along with the Hawaii Food Industry Association, the Retail Merchants Association, and the American Chemistry Council all testified in hearings against the bill. One suggestion from opponents was have an "opt-in" plan, making diners ask for a straw.

Anderson says he's under the impression his fellow restaurateurs have a positive reaction. "Most restaurants are emotionally 100% on board. Practically, they're maybe 80% on board."

Anderson and other restaurant owners say smaller operations, mom and pop owned shops, will have to spend more green to stay green - and it could prove to be a last straw for their livelihood.