Already struggling amid pandemic, Oahu eateries prepare for new plastics rules

Oahu businesses gear up for disposable food ware ordinance

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Come New Year’s Day, the first phase of the city’s new disposable food ware ordinance goes into effect across Oahu.

Under the rules, food service operations must eliminate their plastic products ― from containers to straws to utensils ― and alternatives will only be offered by request.

The measure is aimed at increasing sustainability and helping the environment. Those are goals Chris Kam, of Alicia’s Market, can get behind. But he says the new rules also put local businesses in a bind.

“Paper bags are almost double what it costs for a plastic bag and poke containers, the cost of containers is not even near what the cost of plastic containers are,” Kam said.

“It’s almost double too, and they’re not even as good and a lot of them are lined with plastic on the inside, which you can’t use.”

Kam adds the bill also overlooks how items arrive out of state.

“We can’t use plastic, but yet, everything that comes into us, comes in is plastic,” said Kam, whose business has already been impacted significantly by the pandemic.

“The beef is covered in plastic when it comes in. When you get a box of pork, there’s plastic in between each piece and it’s not like we’re using that. It’s coming in like that.”

Zero Waste Oahu is one of several non-profit organizations working with the city and local businesses on implementing the change.

Executive director Nicole Chatterson recently hosted an event centered on awareness of the new rules.

She said she understands the increased cost of eliminating plastic, but estimates handing out utensils to consumers upon request will offset extra expenses.

“What businesses see when they implement by-request-only is that often times, customers don’t want the extra trinkets they’re getting or they don’t need them,” Chatterson said.

“If you give away half as many of your compostable utensils, you are back at the same price point you were in giving away the cheaper single-use plastic utensils.”

The city is holding a virtual public hearing at the end of the month and businesses can apply for an exemption from the ordinance based on no available alternatives or significant hardship.

Applications will be available at

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