Honolulu has joined leaders in the United States and around the world in the fight against pollution and climate change. A single-use plastics ban was passed by the Honolulu City Council recently. This may lead incoming Oahu visitors to ask, “What does this mean for me?”
The short answer to that question is “Not a whole lot, really.”
The plastics ban will likely have the greatest impact on businesses in the food service industry. The ban also includes the Styrofoam containers and plastic utensils used by the countless plate lunch places and food trucks that have been a part of Hawaii’s food culture for decades. Those Styrofoam containers feed thousands of Oahu’s workers every day (although in Hawaii, most consumers of plate lunches and take-out foods opt for wooden chopsticks because that’s what we’ve always done).
Many such businesses have already transitioned to biodegradable containers and utensils. New restrictions on single-use plastics will be phased in beginning in 2021, with the full ban going into effect January 2022.
The plastics targeted by the ban too often make their way onto Oahu’s streets and into Hawaii’s rivers and streams. Ultimately, the waste pollutes Hawaii’s marine waters and endangers Hawaii’s marine life. The plastic ban was strongly supported by a wide variety of environmental groups locally, nationally, and internationally.
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Opposition to the plastics ban comes largely from small businesses which have always relied on single-use plastics, and those concerns are valid. Alternatives to single-use plastic products and Styrofoam containers are more expensive. Those increased costs will certainly be passed on to consumers.
But plastics pollution poses a grave threat in Hawaii, where tourism is the Aloha State’s primary industry. After heavy rains, Oahu’s high population density means that litter, plastics in particular, makes its way onto the streets, beaches and ocean waters of the Gathering Place. Family vacation photos or news stories of pristine beaches sullied with refuse are not great for attracting visitors to our shores. Keeping Hawaii clean and protecting Hawaii’s marine life is in everyone’s interest.
Beyond the issue of visible pollution that threatens Hawaii’s economy and environment is the corollary issue of climate change. Items included in the plastics ban are products created with petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are proven to be one of the driving factors in climate change and the rise in sea levels that have been well-documented by countless studies in the scientific community around the world.
Oahu’s single-use plastics ban is not the first effort to curb plastic pollution in the islands. Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island have in recent years passed single-use plastic shopping bag restrictions. Those, too, were met with opposition from grocers and retailers. But businesses and consumers have adjusted to the changes, and those changes are doubtlessly making an impact in reducing plastics pollution in the Aloha State.
For environmentally conscious vacationers who want their travel dollars support efforts to curb pollution can rest assured that the people of Hawaii are concerned, too. We here in Hawaii accept that paying just a tiny bit more for a plate lunch is worth it to support efforts preserve and protect the very beauty of the islands that make Hawaii such a desirable place to live and to visit.
Contact us here at Hawaii Aloha Travel and let us help you plan an eco-friendly Hawaii vacation. We are here to help!