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Single-use plastics eyed for next Maui County ban

Proposal mulled in council committee

Shane Sinenci, who chairs the County Council Environmental, Agricultural and Cultural Preservation Committee, conducts a meeting Tuesday with 30 days worth of single-use disposable plastics from Lahaina Intermediate School collected, washed and bagged, in front of him. The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

WAILUKU — Utensils, straws and other single-use disposable plastics may be banned from Maui County if a proposed bill being considered in a County Council committee gains traction.

The proposal, discussed Tuesday afternoon in the council Environmental, Agricultural and Cultural Preservation Committee, targets the use and sale of single-use plastic disposable food ware — items that cannot be recycled on Maui.

The measure comes on the heels of countywide bans on polystyrene foam food service containers and plastic bags.

The council may consider combining existing and proposed bans into one plastic reduction law, and work still must be done to iron out the current proposal’s language. Prohibiting the use and sale of single-use plastic disposable food ware will be revisited during the committee’s next meeting Feb. 18.

On Tuesday afternoon, committee Chairman Shane Sinenci outlined the negative impacts of single-use plastics.

A ban on single-use plastic utensils is being considered by the County Council Environmental, Agricultural and Cultural Preservation Committee. The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“Because of its ability to break down into small and microscopic fragments that persist for decades, plastic disposable food ware has significant negative impacts on the environment, contributes to the potential death of marine animals and avian populations through ingestion, and has been found to be ingested by humans in microplastic form through the food chain,” he said, reading the proposed bill.

Gretchen Losano, co-founder West Maui Green Cycle, spoke as a committee resource, highlighting single-use plastics used at every meal throughout Hawaii’s public schools. She collected, washed and bagged 30 days worth of plastics from Lahaina Intermediate School and piled the bags in Council Chambers as a visual.

“The fact that we have done our children the disservice of thinking this is normal is a gap in our way of thinking that we need to quickly adjust,” she said. “It is not fair to our kids. This isn’t normal; this is insane.”

Losano talked about the alternatives of reusables and employing dishwashers.

A handful of testifiers came out in support of the ban during the meeting.

Cheryl King, a marine biologist and a Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research representative, said she participates in collecting tons of trash off local beach cleanups, and single-use plastics are often found.

“It would be wonderful if one day we showed up to a cleanup and didn’t have to pick up those items,” she said.

King said the move away from single-use plastics is happening around the world and may spark innovation that could create better products and waste management systems.

Kihei Charter School 8th-grader Brooke Cuomo urged the committee to help ban plastics, saying that Maui County landfills take in about 60 tons of municipal solid waste each year. She added that a plastic straw requires 450 to 1,000 years to decompose.

The committee’s proposal references a state plan called “Aloha+ Challenge” that emphasizes Hawaii goals to reduce solid waste. It also uses the City and County of Honolulu’s measure, approved in December, which is among the strictest bans on plastics in the country, and others municipalities on the Mainland with similar plastic bans, such as Malibu, Calif., and Seattle.

First proposed by then-Council Member Elle Cochran in 2018, the measure to ban the use and sale of single-use plastic disposable food ware was revisited last year in the council’s Environmental, Agricultural and Cultural Preservation Committee.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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