There’s been a lot of talk about Bill 40 in the news lately. It’s hard to keep straight what the bill does, and who it will affect, with so many changes and exemptions.

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As a local food manufacturer, I was extremely worried about the effects of Bill 40 prior to the most recent amendment. At one point, the bill’s language was so broad that it would have seriously hurt all local food manufacturers by banning all plastic packaging for foods made on Oahu, like chips, candies, cookies, poi and tofu.

Now that the bill has been amended to exclude food manufacturers and prepackaged goods, my main manufacturing business is no longer affected. However, my retail store continues to be impacted and I still think Bill 40 will hurt our local businesses. Here’s why.

Councilmembers and bill supporters say it was never the bill’s “intent” to include prepackaged foods. But the fact of the matter is, it did — and until members of the food industry stood up and voiced their concern, this version of the bill was very nearly passed without consulting the industry or considering the wide-reaching effects it would have on local food production.

If that version passed, I wouldn’t have been able to sell my chips on supermarket shelves, which accounts for 80 percent of my business. I don’t know many customers who would be willing to trek across the island to Kalihi to pick up a bag of chips.

Sales would fall rapidly, costs would increase exponentially, and eventually I would have to close down. My employees would lose their jobs. The local farmers I work with would lose my business.

Under the latest version of Bill 40, businesses would be prohibited from making available plastic foodware including forks, spoons, knives, straws and foam containers. A provision allows for compostable serviceware under certain conditions.

I know many other manufacturers that would face similar challenges. It’s frightening how easily some council members were willing to accept this version based on intent and not the actual language of the bill.

This amended version excludes prepackaged goods, but it presents many other issues. If you read the bill, it piles exemption upon exemption on top of each other and even contradicts itself. For example, it bans plastic service ware but says businesses may offer it in a self-service area, which is a baffling exemption because it potentially encourages more waste.

Vague Definitions

With so many exemptions and vague definitions, enforcement becomes a nightmare. Whatever agency is in charge of enforcing this ban and approving exemptions will have too much leverage over our local businesses.

Since the definitions allow room for interpretation, a business’s entire livelihood could depend on how a government employee chooses to define “significant hardship” or “reasonable alternative” on any given day. And, how long will the government employee take to render this decision?

Bill 40 jeopardizes our food industry and hurts local consumers.

Plastic and polystyrene bans on Maui and the Big Island did not run into these same issues because all stakeholders were engaged in an inclusive process from the very beginning. Honolulu City Council members only recently agreed to meet with food industry members, which resulted in the hodgepodge bill we have in front of us.

We must work together toward environmentally friendly solutions, but not at the expense of our community and the local businesses that make Hawaii unique. Bill 40 jeopardizes our food industry and hurts local consumers.

I urge the City Council to listen to the challenges faced by local businesses and consider the true toll this ban will have on Hawaii’s food industry. It will increase our reliance on imported food and do little to curb plastic waste, since local businesses generate less than three percent of plastics on Oahu.

The council should vote no on Bill 40 and allow the state’s plastic reduction working group to create a better solution that takes all stakeholders into account.

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