December 16, 2019

Opponents had testified that the bill, particularly its earlier iterations, would not only raise operational costs for restaurants and food vendors, but also dampen local business while favoring Mainland producers. Food industry stakeholders worked with the Council to revise the legislation, and the final version of the bill included an expanded list of items that will be exempt from the ban, including packaging for raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and grab-and-go items; cracker and cookie wrappers; chip bags; bread bags; meal kits; prepackaged items including bentos and tofu; and items for large servings. The bill also includes an exemption for companies that would face “significant hardship” as a result of the ban, as well as businesses that have no “reasonable alternative” for plastic packaging.

During the bill signing, Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, said that the Chamber “appreciates the Council and the Mayor for amending Bill 40 to address some of the concerns that our local businesses had on this bill.”

“From a business perspective, we want to make sure that policies are practical, rational and reasonable,” Menor-McNamara said.

“I believe this bill represents the importance of all of us to coordinate, communicate and collaborate on issues so that together we can protect our island states that are so precious to us,” she added.

But during the Dec. 4 Council meeting before the final vote, some businesses and industry groups testified that they were still concerned about the language in the bill. Lauren Zirbel, executive director of Hawaii Food Industry Association, told the Council that the legislation would be difficult to enforce, and that portions of it remained too vague.