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Plastic Straw Ban Measure Passes Second Reading

KAILUA-KONA — The food industry can be fickle, its purveyors’ profit margins precarious. As such, in the restaurant business, every cent really does count.

That’s one of several arguments trade organizations such as the Hawaii Restaurant Association and the Hawaii Food Industry Association use to oppose Senate Bill 2285, which would ban the use of plastic straws throughout the state and slap offenders with fines as well as community service, namely trash details in littered public spaces.These groups say it’s the bottom lines of small restaurant businesses the proposed regulation would hit hardest.

Yet several such establishments on Hawaii Island are nonetheless transitioning away from traditional plastic straws, despite expenses, to compostable paper straws.

Leilani Nelson-Riley, who co-owns One Aloha Shave Ice off Kuakini Highway with her husband, Nakoa, made the switch to paper straws a few months back.

“The environment is worth it,” Nelson-Riley said. “It’s the only one we have and we have to take care of it. Our world is getting filled with little pieces of plastic that we use for five minutes and throw away.”

“Our five minute-need will (linger) for thousands of years,” she continued. “We have to make that investment in our aina. We feel that’s worth every penny.”

Nelson-Riley’s every penny characterization is apt, considering that’s about what it costs per straw to shift from plastic to paper, although in most cases that hike represents a 100 percent increase in price.

Elizabeth Elkjer of Sustainable Island Products, a Hawaii Island business that provides environmentally-friendly straws, as well as several other such products, said the average plastic straw used for drinks costs about a penny. Her company’s paper straws sell for two.

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