Editorial: Bad timing on plastics ban?

Editorial: Bad timing on plastics ban?

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It seemed like a good idea at the time: Phase out the environment-harming disposable plastic serviceware like forks, knives, spoons and straws. A bill to do just that passed the City Council and was signed into law by Mayor Kirk Caldwell last December, when the coronavirus was just a rumor. The deadline to comply was set at Jan. 1, 2021, a whole year away.

But what a year it’s been. Dozens of restaurants closed permanently, unable to survive as the coronavirus shuttered their dining rooms. The ones still standing — and barely, at that — are those that switched to or ramped up the takeout/delivery model, which uses the very plasticware that will be outlawed in a little over a month.

The Hawaii Food Industry Association and members of the Hawaii Restaurant Association make a reasonable case for postponing implementation until March 31. Those restaurants that haven’t already converted may have larger-than-expected stocks due to the unforeseen and dramatic slowdown in business. Acceptable replacements are more expensive and may be harder to get. And the pandemic shows no signs of fading any time soon. It’s just not a good time.

Certainly, banning the plasticware makes environmental sense. These single-use, disposable products not only are wasteful; they also live forever, getting into land and ocean, breaking down in the ocean, ending up in the bellies of seabirds and the fish we eat.

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