Lisa Iwamoto, on behalf of Styrophobia

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Lisa Iwamoto, on behalf of Styrophobia

Lisa Iwamoto

    Legislative III Project

    Environmental Law Class William S. Richardson School of Law

    Professor Antolini

    November 9, 2007

    Styrofoam Ban Proposal

    Good afternoon, Chair Morita, Vice-Chair Carroll and Members of the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

    I am Lisa Iwamoto, testifying as a private citizen and concerned Environmental Law student, in strong support for this proposed legislation regarding a ban on Styrofoam in the retail food industry.

    I support this proposed legislation for the following reasons: (1) there are significant health concerns stemming from Styrofoam leeching and seepage; (2) the non-biodegradable composition of Styrofoam poses serious threats to Hawaii’s precious environment; and (3) Styrofoam debris

    threatens wildlife as the litter can be ingested by, or entangles, wildlife, frequently causing death.

Health concerns. One of the components of Styrofoam, styrene, is a known hazardous substance 1 Researchers have found that Styrofoam cups lose suspected to be a carcinogen and neurotoxin.2weight when in use, indicating that styrene is leeching into the foods and drinks we consume. Also,

    when people take home their leftovers in Styrofoam containers, it is expected that they will likely re-heat their food. If they re-heat their meal in Styrofoam containers, styrene toxins are released into their food and can lead to fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, blood abnormalities and 3carcinogenic effects. It has even been found to be significantly associated with [California] county-4level breast cancer rates. Furthermore, styrene toxin is found in air, soil and water, so when 5Styrofoam is disposed of, styrene may leech everywhere, including the groundwater. This potential

    for seepage into Hawaii’s groundwater is certainly a valid concern as the state “depends to a great 6extent on groundwater resources” to supply the demand for potable freshwater. Currently, there

    are no federal or state laws requiring the Styrofoam manufacturers to list the dangers of styrene on Styrofoam foodservice ware. Thus, this proposal would adequately address and resolve this problem by eliminating all Styrofoam products in the retail food industry. The health of Hawaii’s people is

    far too important to ignore.

Detrimental environmental impact. One of the primary reasons Styrofoam is such an 7environmental threat is that it does not biodegrade well. Studies show that Styrofoam can take up 8to 500 years to fully disintegrate. As for recycling, the high contamination of the food industry 9makes it virtually impossible to recycle its post-consumer Styrofoam. The Alliance of Foam

    Packaging Recycler, or AFPR, does not accept meat trays, cups, egg cartons or other disposable foodservice items for recycling, because in order to be recycled, the Styrofoam needs to be clean to 10avoid any kind of contamination.

Furthermore, according to the Hampton County, South Carolina website, each year, Americans 11throw away 25 billion Styrofoam products (or 1.369 tons of Styrofoam products) each day.

    Waimanalo Gulch, our current landfill near the Ko Olina Resort, is scheduled to close in May 2008, 12as it is expected to reach its permitted capacity. So with Hawaii facing grave landfill problems, the


    13 most pressing impact of Styrofoam is the considerable amount of landfill space that it occupies.Styrofoam cups, plates and other containers are generally “single use” items and quickly become 14solid waste for landfills.

    Wildlife threatened. Another major environmental concern about Styrofoam is the affect that it has on the surrounding wildlife. Plastic and Styrofoam litter enters the marine and natural 15environment and is ingested by, or entangles, aquatic wildlife, frequently causing death. And

    because Styrofoam can take several hundred years to breakdown, as debris, it presents a persistent and cumulative toxic threat to our oceans and their inhabitants, which results in damage to the 16ecological balance. Due to its lightweight characteristic, Styrofoam easily breaks down into smaller pieces and floats in the water. Even when it has been disposed of properly, it is easily carried off by 17the wind and into ocean waters where it is easily ingested by fish and marine mammals. Animal

    studies also show that ingestion of high levels of styrene can cause damage of the liver, kidneys, 18brain and lungs. Considered the “Endangered Species Capital of the World,” as there are hundreds of plants and animals listed as Endangered or Threatened, Hawaii is a delicate place home to many 19rare and fragile species. With so many endangered species in Hawaii, wildlife concerns regarding Styrofoam and the harmful litter it creates should not be taken lightly.

    Legislative recognition of the Styrofoam problem is certainly not new. Around 100 municipalities throughout California, Oregon and across the country have already taken similar 20initiatives towards banning Styrofoam in the retail food industry. Hawaii needs to jump on this

    bandwagon and move towards creating a more eco-friendly, Styrofoam-free paradise.

    As a lover of local take-out food and the Hawaiian plate lunch, I know I consume a lot of

    Styrofoam products. With this legislation, I can continue to enjoy my favorite foods without having a guilty conscience in thinking that I am contributing to our landfill problem, may have killed a bird or have increased my chances of getting cancer.

Thank you for your consideration of my thoughts.

     1 Welcome to the Online Office of State Senator Liz Krueger,, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 2 Ashville Magazine, Earth Talk,, (last visited on Sept. 17, 2007). 3 Welcome to the Online Office of State Senator Liz Krueger,, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 4 Environmental Health Perspectives, Environmental pollutants and breast cancer, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 5 The Pacific Protection Initiative, SB 899: Facts on Styrene,

    (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 6 The History of Groundwater Management and Research in Hawaii,, (last visited Nov. 7, 2007). 7 Hampton County, South Carolina, Styrofoam Products,, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 8 Hampton County, South Carolina, Styrofoam Products,, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 9 Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers,, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 10 Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers,, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 11 Hampton County, South Carolina, Styrofoam Products,, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007).


     12 Will Hoover, Mayor: Landfill a “terrible problem,” (last visited Sept. 16, 2007). 13 Welcome to the Online Office of State Senator Liz Krueger,, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 14 Office of Environmental Quality Control Hawaii State Department of Health, Guidelines for Sustainable Building Design in Hawaii,, (last visited Nov. 7, 2007). 15 Capital Municipal Code, Chapter 8.36.010 Findings and intent,$file/Food%20Packaging%20Ord.%20

    Current%20Ch%208_36%20Attch2.pdf, (last visited Sept. 16, 2007). 16 Capital Municipal Code, Chapter 8.36.010 Findings and intent,$file/Food%20Packaging%20Ord.%20

    Current%20Ch%208_36%20Attch2.pdf, (last visited Sept. 16, 2007). 17 The Pacific Protection Initiative, SB 899: Toxic Plastic Additives, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 18 The Pacific Protection Initiative, SB 899: Toxic Plastic Additives, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007). 19 Bishop Museum, Hawaii’s Endangered and Threatened Species Web Site, (last visited on Sept. 17, 2007). 20 Welcome to the Online Office of State Senator Liz Krueger,, (last visited Sept. 17, 2007).



    Legislation to prohibit the use of polystyrene foam disposable food service ware and require the use of biodegradable or compostable disposable food serviceware by restaurants, retail food vendors, government departments and contractors and lessees unless there is no affordable alternative.




    Section 1. The Legislature finds that the State of Hawaii has taken significant strides over the past several years towards a more aggressive and conscious stance in protecting and preserving Hawaii’s precious resources and its environment.

    Recent examples such as the Hi-5 Container Recycling Program and the work of the 2050 Sustainability Task Force have furthered efforts towards Hawaii becoming the premier renewable and environmentally conscious State in the United States.


    The Legislature finds that use and disposal of polystyrene foam foodservice containers poses a significant threat not only to Hawaii’s ecosystems and environment but also to the general health and welfare of the citizens of this State.

    While the Legislature recognizes the use of polystyrene foam containers as a sturdy, sanitary, economical and convenient product for Hawaii’s foodservice industries, the inherent unbiodegradable nature and chemical composition of this product raises serious concerns.

    Polystyrene is a petroleum by-product, a non-renewable resource, composed of the chemicals styrene and benzene. Benzene is classified as a human carcinogen. Styrene is a neurotoxin and is also suspected to cause cancer. The EPA is currently conducting an Integrated Risk Information System review to establish whether to formally classify styrene as a carcinogen

    Furthermore, the Legislature has concerns regarding the possible leeching of styrene into food and liquids consumed when heated in polystyrene foam foodservice ware products, posing a potential threat to human health.

    Disposal of used polystyrene foam foodservice containers are either buried in landfills across the State or are disposed of through the Honolulu Program of Waste Energy Recovery, (“H-

    POWER”) the ash from which is then buried at the landfills.

    The Legislature concludes that these disposal options are unacceptable given the present lack of landfill space available in the State, along with the detrimental and long-term impacts of polystyrene foam upon Hawaii’s environment and ecosystems.

    The Legislature believes that disposed polystyrene foam takes up a substantial percentage of available landfill space in the

    -State of Hawaii. Additionally, polystyrene foam is nonbiodegradable, not easily recyclable, cannot be reused, and takes hundreds of years to decompose.

    Similarly, there is concern that as polystyrene foam breaks down over time in the State’s landfills, dangerous chemicals are leaching into the seepage of the landfills. This seepage is pumped out of the landfill and inadequately processed and treated before being discharged into the ocean, threatening marine ecosystems around the island.


    The Legislature finds that harmful chemicals are produced when burning polystyrene foam. Burning of polystyrene foam emits a dense, black, irritating smoke with acid gases, producing carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and styrene (a known neurotoxin and possible carcinogen). The National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research identified 57 chemical byproducts released during the combustion of polystyrene foam.

    The Legislature further finds that failure to properly dispose of polystyrene foam foodservice ware products (“littering”), is not only an aesthetic concern but also raises significant health and welfare concerns.

    Additionally, the breakdown and decomposition of polystyrene foam products poses a significant threat to Hawaii’s fragile ecosystems. When polystyrene foam is not properly disposed of, it repeatedly breaks down over time into smaller pieces. Various creatures including birds, marine mammals and fish mistake these smaller, broken down pieces of foam for food, causing them to either choke or have their digestive systems clogged.

    Given the foregoing, the Legislature concludes that threats posed by polystyrene foam are significant, substantial and cannot be ignored. A more environmentally friendly alternative to polystyrene foam must be mandated.

    Section 2. The Hawaii Revised Statutes is amended by adding a new chapter to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

    ? -1 Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:

    “Affordable” means purchasable by the Vendor/Provider at a maximum cost of fifteen (15) percent more than the purchase cost of the non-biodegradable, non-recyclable, non-PSF alternative (excluding import fees).

    “Biodegradable” means the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature, i.e., decompose into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal.

    “Compostable” means all materials in the product or package will break down into, or otherwise become part of, usable compost


    (e.g., soil-conditioning material, mulch) in a safe and timely manner in an appropriate composting program or facility, or in a home compost pile or device.

    “Disposable food service ware” means all containers, bowls, plates, trays, carton, cups, lids, straws, forks, spoons, knives, napkins and other items that are designed for one-time use for Prepared Foods, including without limitation, serviceware for takeout foods and/or leftovers from partially consumed meals prepared.

    “Polystyrene foam” means blown polystyrene and expanded and extruded foams (sometimes called Styrofoam) which are thermoplastic petrochemical materials utilizing a styrene monomer and processed by any number of techniques including, but not limited to, fusion of polymer spheres (expandable bead polystyrene), injection molding, foam molding, and extrusion-blown molding (extruded foam polystyrene). Polystyrene foam is generally used to make cups, bowls, plates, trays, clamshell containers, meat trays, and egg cartons.

    “Prepared Food” means food or beverages, which are served, packaged, cooked, chopped, sliced, mixed, brewed, frozen, squeezed or otherwise prepared on the food vendor’s premises or within the State of Hawaii. Prepared food may be eaten either on or off the premises, also known as “takeout food”.

    ? -2 Prohibited. Polystyrene foam food service ware is prohibited to be used by the following:

    (1) Restaurants, retail food vendors, non-profit and

    Government food providers, and packagers are

    prohibited from providing or selling prepared

    food in disposable food service ware that

    contains polystyrene foam.

    (2) Government departments are prohibited from

    purchasing, acquiring or using disposable food

    service ware that contains polystyrene foam.

    (3) Government contractors and lessees shall be

    prohibited from using disposable food service

    ware that contains polystyrene foam in state

    facilities while performing under a government

    contract or lease.


    ? -3 Exemptions. Compliance with this regulation requires a biodegradable or compostable product is available for a specific application. Entities are exempt should no affordable alternative be available for a specific application.

? -4 Enforcement, Powers of Municipalities. (a) All

    municipalities in the State of Hawaii shall promulgate and produce regulations, ordinance, guidelines, or laws to take any and all other reasonable actions necessary to implement and enforce this measure.

(b)The State Department of Health (“DOH”), prior to this

    measure’s enactment, will compile and make available a list of affordable alternative forms of biodegradable or compostable food service ware that does not contain polystyrene foam. The Department shall regularly update this list.

    ? -5 Penalties. Violations of this statute will incur a fine not exceeding $250 for the first violation in a one (1) year period, and a fine not exceeding $500 for the second and each subsequent violation in a one (1) year period.

    ? -6 Funding. An appropriation of XXX million dollars will be made available to assist in defraying any potential fiscal impacts this regulation may have upon small business and entities within the state affected by this measure.

Section 3. The State Department of Agriculture (“DOA”) in

    coordination with the State Department of Business, Economic Development & Taxation (“DBEDT”) will evaluate the feasibility

    and potential for production of biodegradable polystyrene products within the State and report back to the Legislature in January, 2009.

    Section 4. No later than January 1, 2010, DOH, in consultation with the municipalities and with input from members of the public, shall submit a report to the Legislature recommending changes, if any, to this Chapter, including whether the ban imposed by this Chapter should be extended to other products, as supported by the report.

    Section 5. This Act shall take effect on January 1, 2009


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