(BIVN) – A bill that prohibits the purchase, use, sale, or distribution of plastic beverage bottles, utensils, stirring sticks, polystyrene foam containers, and straws by state and county agencies has passed out of the Hawaiʻi State Senate and is now in the House of Representatives.
State Senator Mike Gabbard spoke in favor of SB522 SD2, a measure he helped introduce, from the floor of the senate during third reading on March 5.
“Plastic is a huge problem in our oceans, our wildlife, and our environment as a whole,” Rep. Gabbard said.
“My colleagues from Hawaiʻi Island may take interest in this,” Gabbard said. “Kamilo Point in rural Kaʻū on Hawaiʻi Island was highlighted in a May 1st, 2017 Huffington Post article as being one of the dirtiest places in the world because of plastics.”
“Ocean Crusaders report that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean,” Gabbard stated. “Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some 4 billion plastic micro fibers per square kilometre litter the deep sea. Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags every year, and this translates to about a million bags every minute across the globe or 150 bags a year for every person on earth. And the number is rising. We use 500 million plastic straws every single day in the U.S. A coastal care reports that 90% of seabirds have some plastic in their digestive tracts.”
“Now, for the good news,” Gabbard said. “Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, announced late last month that they will eliminate non recyclable plastic packaging in all it’s private label brands by 2020, impacting over 30,000 products. Our counties have been taking the lead on reducing plastics for the last several years. As of July 2015, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, Maui and Kauaʻi have all banned plastic checkout bags. At UH, a student-initiated ban on polystyrene food polystyrene food containers at all campus food establishments has been in place as policy since 2012. The Hawaiʻi Ocean Friendly Restaurant program launched in 2016 now includes more than 200 eateries that are certified as foam free. Maui County became the first county in Hawaiʻi to pass a ban on polystyrene foam containers in June of 2017. Hawaiʻi County banned polystyrene containers in October of 2017 and this will go into effect July 1st, 2019.”
Gabbard said SB 522 “is our zero waste bill that would move us forward in a very big way in reducing single-use plastic. Zero waste plastic reduction plans are moving forward all over the world including within the European Union, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and municipalities across the U.S. This bill would would would ban state and county agencies from selling or using single use plastic beverage bottles, utensils, stirring sticks, polystyrene foam containers, or straws after July 1st, 2021. It would ban restaurants and other food businesses from selling or using single use plastic beverage bottles, utensils, stirring sticks, polystyrene foam containers, or straws after July 1st, 2022. And it would ban any form of plastic bags after July 1st, 2023. It would also set up a working group to look into the issue of eliminating single-use plastic packaging and phasing out single use plastic beverage containers.”
After Gabbard spoke, Hawaiʻi Island State Senator Lorraine Inouye came to the defense of the reputation of Kamilo Beach, saying on the floor of the senate that it “is not to be entitled the dirtiest beach in our state.”
Sen. Inouye said that after the March 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tidal wave occurred, currents swept the debris to Kamilo Beach, “and unfortunately … 60 Minutes came thereafter and I guess identified Kamilo Beach as the dirtiest probably in the world, or in our state.” Sen. Inouye said she wanted to “support the notion that it wasn’t because of the trash made by residents.”
Senator Russell Ruderman also spoke, and said he agreed with both Gabbard and Inouye, and noted that he has sponsored several of the cleanup efforts down at Kamilo Beach. Rudmerman said it’s true, “there was a big wave of trash after Fukushima, but every year new trash gets deposited there from around the world. It just happens to catch it.”
“By the way,” Ruderman added, “I also own a business that’s operated 20 years while being a leader in plastic elimination and it hasn’t hurt us at all.”
The bill passed the Senate of third reading and has been transmitted to the House, where it passed first reading and now awaits committee hearings.