Food packaging task force proposal stalls

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Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille appears set to get a seat at the table if the Hawaii County Council forms a panel tasked with reducing waste from food packaging and other consumer products.

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Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille appears set to get a seat at the table if the Hawaii County Council forms a panel tasked with reducing waste from food packaging and other consumer products.

After a lengthy discussion Wednesday, the County Council was in agreement to add Wille, who sponsored a failed ban on Styrofoam food containers, to the Hawai‘i Island Packaging Sustainability Stakeholders Task Force proposed by Puna Councilman Daniel Paleka.

The measure itself was deferred while amendments are drafted.

Wille was left off the original member list for the 18-member panel.

That appeared to touch a nerve for the councilwoman who has led the charge on several environmental initiatives.

“I will fight it if you don’t put me on,” she said during a recess at Wednesday’s council meeting, not realizing her microphone was still on. “It’s so disrespectful.”

While the council was generally supportive of the measure, some members questioned whether the proposed group is too large and whether it can accomplish anything by the time a new council takes over Dec. 5.

Paleka and Wille, who both were defeated in Saturday’s primary election, would be the two council representatives on the task force. Other members would include representatives from government agencies, the business community and environmental groups.

“If this discussion is any indication of how this task force is going to operate, no way they are going to finish by the beginning of December,” said Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung. “I don’t know why we are taking so long on this discussion, quite frankly.”

Wille proposed her own amended version of the resolution under discussion, but appeared ready to pull it if she was added to the committee.

Her proposal included a ban on polystyrene foam food containers by July 1, 2018.

Some council members noted dictating an outcome would defeat the purpose of the task force.

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“Margaret, I’ll always listen to you,” said Paleka. “I just ask you to allow me to do this.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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