Councilwoman Kymberly Pine of the Leeward Coast is rolling out what she calls her “sustainability package,” a series of bills to promote organic farming and reduce the amount of waste produced on Oahu.

Her first measure would ban food takeout containers made of plastic foam or other materials that don’t break down when thrown away. That bill has been stalled in committee since it was introduced in July.

Two new measures introduced this month would provide property tax breaks to businesses with environmentally friendly practices. The first, Bill 79, would  offer tax breaks to farms certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“I really wanted to award those farmers that were doing the harder farming, the healthier farming and that’s the organic farmers,” Pine said.

There are 156 farms in the state certified as organic by the USDA. Martha Cheng

The second, Bill 80, offers breaks to restaurants deemed “ocean friendly” by the Surfrider Foundation. The foundation awards the designation to restaurants that follow a list of criteria, including offering only reusable tableware instead of plastic cutlery, offering compostable takeout containers and only providing straws upon request.

Her proposals will receive first readings at Wednesday’s council meeting.

The bills don’t specify the amount business owners would get in tax breaks. Pine said she hoped council members would work out the specifics as the bills go through committee.

Her proposals would add to a list of property tax breaks the city already offers to some businesses, including for-profit daycare centers, slaughterhouses and greenhouses used for commercial farming.

The tax system is used all the time in this way,” said Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii.

 It’s important that legislation offering tax breaks is specific, rather then vague, when detailing the criteria necessary to make a person or business eligible for tax breaks, Yamachika said.

Councilwoman Kymberly Pine plans to introduce bills aimed at promoting sustainable practices. Cory Lum/CIvil Beat

There are 156 farms in the state certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The federal agency relies on third party organizations to certify farms as organic, and most organic farms in Hawaii are certified by either Organic Certifiers or International Certification Services.  

Labeling restaurants as “ocean friendly” might be more difficult to pin down.

The Surfrider Foundation relies on volunteers to certify restaurants and doesn’t have the capacity to regularly check if they continue to comply with the standards, according to Rafael Bergstrom, a coordinator for the foundation’s Oahu Chapter.

The organization has certified about 140 eateries since it began its ocean friendly restaurants campaign in April 2016.

Pine said she listed the organization on the bill because it’s already tracking restaurants that take measures to eliminate nondegradable waste. She said the bill would have to be amended, perhaps tasking the city’s new Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resilience with defining “ocean friendly” and certifying restaurants.

We would hope that they do the best they can do mirror our program,” Bergstrom said. “It’s exponential what is washing up on our beaches. Sure a lot isn’t coming from Hawaii but as an island state… we’re going to make the change to make sure that were not the ones contributing to it.”

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