Bill 40: A Guide to Civic Action in Honolulu
At Zero Waste O‘ahu, we want to change the system. Currently, there is an opportunity to begin the process of removing unnecessary plastic waste from our world - Bill 40, a vehicle at the Honolulu City Council to get rid of a group of single-use plastics from our island including polystyrene foam, plastic bags (the rest of them), straws, utensils, stirring sticks, and potentially more with enough support.
We are at a time when plastics have taken over the world in ways that have gone from a nicety of convenience to a historical detriment to the ‘āina (lands), kahakai (beaches/coastlines), moana (oceans), wai (freshwater) and of course to kanaka (people of this place) and keiki (children, or perhaps more importantly, the next generation to inherit island earth).
How to Act
Bill 40 currently is 2/5 of the way to becoming law. We need major public support to make it through the final 3 steps that are outlined below.
At each step you will have the opportunity to write testimony and speak in person. You can always submit testimony through the Honolulu City & County by clicking this testimony link. For this bill to become a law it will have at least 3 more hearings.
On the testimony page, the form is very simple but three things you may not know without experience:
AGENDA ITEM: BILL 40 (this will not change in any of the hearings)
Council/PH Committee Drop Down: For steps 1 & 3 you select (COUNCIL/PUBLIC HEARING); for step 2 you select (PUBLIC SAFETY & WELFARE)
You can write your testimony in the box, but you can also attach a document - we recommend this so your testimony is saved and can be used for future hearings with small tweaks.
Step 1: Full City COuncil Hearing on September 4th
Ideally written testimony is submitted before 10AM on Tuesday (9/3) but you can submit all the way up until the hearing.
A full council hearing means all council members are present - these hearings, prior to its final reading, usually move faster then committee hearings.
Step 2: 2nd Committee Hearing (Public Safety & WELFARE) tentatively scheduled for September 26th!!
We have a few weeks to work towards this: Get as many people as you can educated on the process (help us push over 1000 pieces of supporting testimony), reach out to restaurants to submit testimony and appear in person to share their stories, read up on the topic (helpful links and ideas below) to provide strong arguments
Be ready to join this hearing in person - think about how you can rearrange your schedule to support - if it gets as much attention as we think it will, we will be there for a lot of the day.
Step 3: Final reading at full council - Most likely early October
When Bill 40 gets here this is its last hearing before going to the mayor to be signed into law.
The steps are very similar to Step 2 above - we will need wide spread support to get past this final step.
RESOURCES for Testimony & understanding the opposition
NOtes for this section:
There are links to many studies in the sections below that demonstrate the case for phasing out plastics. Please share. An informed public has more resources to move policy.
In order to understand how we can bring about change we need to understand how those who disagree with us think. While we may not agree with them, we have to find room for empathy in order bring others into our movement (that is not easy). The major arguments against phasing out single use plastics are along the same lines:
Businesses believe that the cost is too high for them to move away from plastics and introduce something new. This is the biggest one and those who are resistant to change continue to use this to influence policy.
A great deal of the public likes the cheapness and convenience of plastics. Many people simply have not made the time to understand the consequences and don’t want their already challenging lives disrupted.
HPOWER: The public and businesses have been sold that incineration is the answer to our waste problems and people/businesses are made to believe that creating energy by burning is okay. Misinformation is not entirely the fault of the people. (Read below for more truths).
Plastics are big business and big oil: this is the hardest one to empathize with.
why we support a plastic phase-out: talking points for change!!!!
Public Safety & Climate Change
Plastics are entering our food systems, our own mouths and stomachs, our air, our water and our knowledge of the consequences is growing. You can read a recent report from WWF here that discusses how much we are all potentially ingesting per week. Nat Geo also added to this dialogue.
Plastics are made from fossil fuels - current trends would mean that 20% of global fossil fuel use will be allocated to plastics by 2050 with 12 billion tons of plastics in our landfills & environment (UN 2018). Additionally, a recent study from UH Mānoa researchers discovered that plastics in the ocean and on beaches (exposed to sun) are releasing methane and that microplastics, due to more surface area, are largely responsible.
At every stage of its lifecycle, plastic poses distinct risks to human health, arising from both exposure to plastic particles themselves and associated chemicals. People worldwide are exposed at multiple stages of this lifecycle. Read the comprehensive analysis here. - you can download the full study there as well.
Reefs which are vital to ocean balance and survival of all things on planet earth are being harmed by plastics globally. Because plastics bioaccumulate pathogens when in water (they are floating or sinking islands for pathogens to attached to) when they make contact with reefs (often scarring or cutting them) the corals can become diseased. This study is in the most reputable scientific journal Science and can be found here.
The Cost to cleanup Plastic to taxpayers, cities, & the world
Plastic is costing cities, counties, states, & countries millions of dollars and our global economy billions. Costs are passed to the taxpayers by burdening our stormwater management systems with the need for expensive best management practices and the costs of cleanups.
The city and county of Honolulu Facilities Management did a baseline study that indicated that 28% of the debris in stormdrains, detention basins, etc. was plastic & styrofoam. They are charged with cutting waste in these systems by 50% by 2023 and 100% by 2034 (most of the rest of the debris is organic)
Hawaii State Department of Transportation has produced a trash plan that shows styrofoam and plastic bags as the top two contributors to the waste stream.
The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) created a plastic cleanup valuation study for 90+ counties in California:
CA taxpayers are paying $428 million per year to clean up plastic through storm drain management, street sweeping, and cleanups.
San Diego County (with population of 1.3 equivalent to Hawaii) spends $14 million alone on plastic cleanup
United Nations Environmental Program Global Estimates are in the billions for the global cost to cleanup plastics, $14 billion for marine plastic alone.
This cost is closer to $78 billion annually if all costs are considered, including the cost lost in fossil fuel production and loss of resources.
Burden on the public
According to cleanup hours recorded across Hawaii’s beach cleaning organizations and volunteer hour base rates, we spent $750,000 - $1 million on beach cleanups in 2016 alone.
HPOWER & INcineration:
It is argued that plastic is acceptable because we can incinerate it for clean, local energy. However, on Oʻahu, H-POWER produces 3 times more greenhouse gas emissions than the Kahe and 10% more GHG emissions than the AES coal plant. While this is considered to be “clean energy” by the City and County of Honolulu, the State of Hawaiʻi, and the waste incineration industry--the numbers do not back this claim.
Plastic waste management, especially “waste-to-energy” and other forms of incineration, releases toxic substances including heavy metals such as lead and mercury, acid gases and particulate matter, which can enter air, water, and soil causing both direct and indirect health risks for workers and nearby communities.
Despite the dialogue perpetuated by industry - incineration is the opposite of renewable energy. The definition of renewable: (of a natural resource or source of energy) not depleted when used. When something is burned it is depleted - there is no difference between burning oil or trash made from oil (except that trash has more emissions).