Bill 40 passes 7-2


Supports of Bill 40 hold up a giant scroll featuring hundreds of signatures of support. On Wednesday, Dec. 4 Bill 40 passed the Honolulu City Council by a vote of 7-2. Photo by Lucy Fagan 2019.

On Wednesday, Dec. 4, the Honolulu City Council passed Bill 40 7-2 at the final hearing. At Honolulu Hale, more than 70 people signed up to testify in person, with more than 80 percent being in support of the bill, according to the official list of registered speakers. 

Councilman Joey Manahan, who introduced the bill, has been fighting for anti-plastic legislation for over ten years, along with many other activists in the room. 

“This is the first time we’ve been able to pass a bill that’s been actually meaningful and done something,” Manahan shares. 

Before the final hearing, Bill 40 was amended once again, pushing the original deadlines back a year. The bill will now go into effect on Jan. 1 2021 and the phase-out will proceed from there. 

The new draft also clarifies definitions of included items, such as the description of what plastic is. 

This is the first time we’ve been able to pass a bill that’s been actually meaningful and done something.”

— Councilman Joey Manahan

The Bill is now at Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office and he can either sign it, pass it without his signature, or veto it. If it is passed, the administration will need to draft rules, clarify the language, and work on how to implement it. 

On his Instagram page on Dec. 4, Mayor Caldwell promised to sign it into law “assuming there are no legal issues with the legislation.”

Honolulu City Council made the decision to pass Bill 40 a little after 6 p.m. after the expected start time of the hearing was pushed from noon to 4 p.m. This did not deter supporters, however, and the hearing room was packed with people. 

Rylee Brooke Kamahele, a 12-year-old activist, was at Honolulu Hale for over six hours before she could stand up and give testimony. She has been fighting for anti-plastic legislation since she was seven. 

“Most of you adults will never have to live through the effects of the world you are leaving behind for us,” Kamahele stated during her testimony. 

Many council members praised the young activists for their commitment to the bill.

“You guys are my true north, my guiding star, and my Hokuleia,” Manahan said in regards to the 10+ youth that showed up. 

There was also a smaller contingent who came out to testify in opposition to the bill, including Food Industry Hawaii, Retail Merchants of Hawaii, Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association, and local businesses like the Hawaiian Chip Company. 

The main argument against the bill was the increased cost of eco-friendly goods as well as the impact on manufacturers and distributors. The businesses said they ere happy to push back the deadlines. 

“I would like to thank all of you that submitted testimony opposing the bill,” 7-Eleven wrote in their memorandum on Dec. 5. “Our collective efforts made a loud enough noise to the Councilmembers that they made major revisions to the bill that were favorable to 7-Eleven and other local businesses.”  

Stuart Coleman, the manager of the five chapters of Surfrider in the state,  hopes the Bill is a precursor to a more eco-friendly change in the state.

“We want to build on the moment of passing bill 40 and really help to raise awareness about the dangers of fossil fuels whether they take the form of plastic, or natural gas,” Coleman explained. “We need to stop what’s called extractive economy which is just take take take and start giving back.”