City auditor: Banning foam containers wouldn’t reduce litter

City auditor: Banning foam containers wouldn’t reduce litter
Styrofoam containers will soon be a thing of the past in Maui County. (Image: Hawaii News Now) (Source: Hawaii News Now/file)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Monday, a new law banning foam takeout food containers took effect on Maui.

Oahu has considered a similar measure, but a new city audit might put cold water on those efforts.

The audit concludes that prohibiting businesses from using polystyrene single-use food containers wouldn’t actually reduce litter.

It also suggests that instead of instituting a ban, the city should look at better enforcing existing litter laws.

[To read the full city audit, click here.]

“Minimizing litter to keep our natural environment beautiful and safe from harm is an important community objective,” the city auditor said, in the report.

“To be successful, the city should pursue comprehensive methods rather than a simplistic ban on a single kind of litter/trash that is unlikely to effectively reduce the overall amount of litter and its harm to the environment.”

Over 60 cities or counties nationwide already ban polystyrene food containers.

And interestingly, the city conducted a survey as part of the audit and found that businesses and residents largely support a ban on polystyrene.

But the auditor noted that banning polystyrene would hit businesses — and their customers — in their wallets.

While the audit focused on litter, it didn’t appear to address one of the biggest problems with polystyrene: It doesn’t biodegrade. It also can’t be recycled.

Environmentalists say a ban of polystyrene would mean businesses would opt for compostable or recyclable materials.

But the auditor notes that no single-use food containers are recycled in Hawaii.

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