Grabbing a plate lunch on the Big Island? It will no longer be served in Styrofoam

Updated: Jul. 1, 2019 at 1:19 PM HST
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BIG ISLAND, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Big Island’s ban on polystyrene — or Styrofoam — food containers goes into effect on Monday.

That means all food service vendors — meaning restaurants, food trucks, farmer’s markets — as well as supermarkets will no longer be able to serve takeout or plate lunches in single-use containers made from polystyrene foam.

The law was passed by the Hawaii County Council back in September of 2017. But it took months of tweaking the language and rolling out an educational campaign for those who would be impacted before finally being implemented.

Starting Monday, officials say foam food containers will no longer be allowed, including plates, bowls and cups. Instead, all food vendors are required to use recyclable or compostable foodware certified by the Biodegradable Product Institute, which carries a BPI logo.

Straws, cup lids, utensils, film wraps, and raw food packaging — like the trays that are used for raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs — are exempt. However, containers for ready-to-eat sashimi or poke are required to meet the new guidelines.

Foods packaged outside the geographical limits of the Hawaii County are excluded from the ban, along with coolers or ice chests that are intended for reuse.

Fines for violations range from $10 for the first offense and up to $200 for three or more failures to comply. Regulation of the ban will be solely complaint-driven.

A written warning will be issued first. Officials say each sale or transfer of food in a polystyrene container counts as a single violation.

County officials say they passed this ban because polystyrene foam containers are so light they are easily carried by the wind and end up as litter. They say because polystyrene foam containers are neither biodegradable or compostable, they ultimately deteriorate into microplastics which are harmful to animals that mistakenly ingest them.

Officials say single-use disposal polystyrene food service ware is also not consistent with the county’s goal to reduce materials going into the landfills.

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