On Wednesday February 8th, at 1:15 the Hawaii State Senate will be holding a hearing that includes a ban on Styrofoam food containers. For all of you who are involved with Surfrider you know that foam is one of the most littered forms of plastic that we find on our beaches and in our marine ecosystems. This could be a huge step forward for our State efforts to have cleaner beaches and a more sustainable society.

PLEASE SEND IN YOUR TESTIMONY by tomorrow. You can find instructions on how to do so using the Hawaii Capitol Website on our Civics IS Sexy Pages. On that page you will also find downloadable sample testimony documents (Step 3 at bottom of the page). You can download these and create your own testimony. You can also follow the simple instructions in the graphic below to submit your testimony.

Styrofoam is costing tax payers millions of dollars in cleanup costs as well as the environmental damage and human health effects associated with the toxicity of styrene. You can find data on these facts using the links below and some of the bullet points for testimony are listed here as well (same as what you will find on the word document).

United Nations report on Plastic Pollution

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Report on California Plastic Cleanup Costs

Hawaii Department of Transportation Trash Plan

National Geographic Report on Trash in our Oceans

Here is some information based on these reports to include in your testimony or for your own knowledge:

Cleanup Costs & Economic Benefits

  • Plastic is costing cities, counties, states, & countries millions of dollars and our global economy billions. Costs are passed to the taxpayers by burdening our storm water management systems with the need for expensive best management practices and the costs of cleanups.
  • 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.


Environmental Impact

  • It is argued that styrofoam is acceptable because we can incinerate it for energy.  However, this approach is not without significant impacts. According to the Hawaii DOH Clean Air Branch the Covanta H-POWER plant emits 0.15 million metrics tons of carbon dioxide (a potent greenhouse gas) annually.  Although touted as a “clean energy solution” for Hawaii, H-POWER only generates about 3% of Oahu’s energy needs while still emitting greenhouse gases through burning plastic.
  • Further, for each ton of polystyrene not produced, 2.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions are avoided. This directly supports Hawaii’s greenhouse gas reduction goals as stated in the Aloha + Challenge and as mandated by the US EPA.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) report shows that burning polystyrene emits more carbon dioxide equivalent than other plastics.  For each ton of polystyrene incinerated, 1.64 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent are emitted.
  • If burned at HPower, one compostable clamshell burns 1.76 times greater energy compared to one EPS Foam clamshell of the same size. And burning compostable products come without the toxic ash or smoke that EPS foam creates in the burning process.
  • Fiber clamshells are also less than half the volume of EPS, so a restaurant could fit about twice as many clamshells on the same amount of shelf space or have more space for other things.
  • The material for fiber containers can be grown and then made here in Hawaii, so more jobs and sustainable ones, not jobs that are exposing workers directly to large amounts of toxic chemicals. EPS can also be made here, but raw, toxic source chemicals need to be shipped to Hawaii.
  • EPS is designed to be used it once, and according to the US EPA less than 1% of foam is recycled nationally. 0% of EPS Foam is recycled locally.
  • EPS Foam is composed of over 90% air, so even when properly disposed of, foam products easily fly out of trash bins and dumpsters, and they enter into the natural environment, eventually polluting our ocean and negatively impacting ocean health and threatening marine wildlife.
  • EPS Foam also breaks apart more easily and quicker than other plastics, making it more difficult to clean up than other plastics and easier for animals to mistake as food and ingest
  • According to the EPA Waste Reduction Model Report, 7% of plastic waste generation in US is polystyrene. Of our total plastic recovery, polystyrene makes up 0.7%  of recycled plastic

Human Health

  • Air pollution from polystyrene
    • Styrene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen and a confirmed animal carcinogen as reported by the National Institute of Health in their Report on Carcinogens (2011); this conclusion is also endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences (2014)
    • When combusted, styrene produces benzaldehyde (US EPA classifies this as a hazardous substance), acetophenone (Group D carcinogen by US EPA, causes chromosomal damage on hamsters, but hasn’t been tested in humans), styrene oxide (main metabolite of styrene, which is known as carcinogenic).