Hold that plate lunch! Lawmakers consider statewide ban of popular foam containers

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii senators later this week are expected to vote on a bill that would prohibit the sale and use of polystyrene foam containers statewide.

There have been repeated efforts over the years to ban what is more commonly known as Styrofoam containers, and several attempts to address the issue with county initiatives as well.

Senate Bill 2498 has already passed the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health Committee and heads next to a full Senate vote.

The bill would prohibit restaurants and other vendors from selling or using polystyrene foam containers for serving food statewide starting in January 2019.

It would also authorize the Department of Health to require vendors to explain proper disposal of non-reusable food containers to customers.

The measure has strong support from the Surfrider Foundation, Sustainable Coastlines, the Sierra Club, and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

Environmentalists say polystyrene foam is one of the least recycled plastics and can persist in the environment for more than a million years.

They say these single-use products are slow to break down chemically and instead fragment into small pieces and are eaten by animals.

The Hawaii Food Industry Association, American Chemistry Council, Hawaii Restaurant Association, Hawaii Food Industry Association, and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii all oppose the bill.

In written testimony, many pointed to the fact that biodegradable products cost 30 percent more than polystyrene products and the increase in costs could force the closure of small businesses.

A Styrofoam container ban is already in place for Maui County and will take effect at the end of this year. Hawaii County has a similar initiative that will roll out in July 2019. The Honolulu City Council is also considering a ban on foam containers.

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