Hawaii Is Close to Banning Ocean-Polluting Takeout Containers

They would be the first state in the US to ban the foam containers.

Hawaii, a state with a $17-billion tourism industry and a persistent plastic pollution problem, is moving toward a groundbreaking ban on polystyrene food containers.

While hundreds of cities and counties have passed local ordinances eliminating polystyrene in food containers or in other uses, no legislation has so far been successful at the state level in the United States.A similar effort failed recently in California, while Maryland’s General Assembly is now also considering legislation that was introduced in early 2018.

Internationally, a few nations have imposed strong regulations against the importation and use of polystyrene, including Zimbabwe and the Seychelles, which has banned the use of all disposable plastic items.

All plastic debris is a concern for marine and coastal health because it does not biodegrade and can end up polluting beaches and the ocean, where it breaks up into tiny pieces that can be eaten by marine life. Lightweight polystyrene foam is particularly worrisome in an island state such as Hawaii because it easily blows out of trash cans and eventually out to sea.

“The ban would be a positive step forward in preventing more plastic debris from affecting Hawaiian shores and waters,” said Mark Manuel, Pacific Islands Marine Debris Program regional coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Honolulu.

On Monday, spectators packed a small room in the Hawaii State Capitol building and watched as five senators read public testimony from supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 2498. This is the first time in 10 years that a statewide polystyrene foam prohibition bill has moved through Hawaii’s Senate, according to the Surfrider Foundation’s Oahu Chapter, and follows bans passed in Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii last year.

Green Sea Turtle, Oahu, Hawaii
NOAA photo library/Flickr

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