Features | The Green Leaf Containers from home can help reduce takeout waste By Nina Wu April 13, 2015 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Takeout is convenient. I get that. But lately, I’ve been thinking about how much waste is generated by takeout — including the single-use plastic fork and knife, the clamshell, the little sauce containers, all wrapped in a plastic bag. I confess that I contribute, by getting takeout lunch pretty much every Monday through Friday. Take a peek into a trash can at lunchtime around your office and it’s probably filled to the brim with plastic bags wrapped around clamshells made of plastic or polystyrene foam, none of which break down easily. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency estimated about a third of some 251 million tons of municipal solid waste in the U.S. can be attributed to food containers and packaging. So imagine the volume generated by Eat the Street, the popular, lunch wagon rally that takes place on the last Friday of every month in Honolulu. Whether you’re getting a plate lunch or fried musubi, you’re generating takeout container waste at each stop. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great event. I was just wondering what I could do to reduce takeout waste, and thought BYOC (bring your own container) might be the solution. So how easy is it to BYOC? I tried it at a few lunch wagons at Eat the Street last month and was pleasantly surprised. One vendor piled my chow mein noodle order into my glass container without much ado. Another vendor smiled, and thanked me. Here’s the rub, though. It turns out that the state Department of Health does not allow restaurants to serve food in customers’ own containers, based on its interpretation of Hawaii Administrative Rules 11-50-32(p)(1), which refers to a "take-home container returned to a food establishment." The law is confusing because it sounds as if it refers to a customer bringing a take-home container back to the restaurant for re-use as opposed to bringing storage containers from home. However, the health department says it is OK for a customer to pack their own leftovers in a reusable container after a meal at a restaurant. It is also acceptable to bring your own cup for beverages. Starbucks, for example, will pour a latte into a customers’ own cup and give you a 10-cent discount every time you do. So who actually does this? I’m thinking it’s a small minority, but found three others in my circle of acquaintances who make an effort to reduce waste. Though it’s not quite BYOC, Amanda Corby Noguchi, wife of chef Mark "Gooch" Noguchi and cofounder of Pili Group, brings her own pair of chopsticks and a wooden spork (combination spoon/fork) in her purse wherever she goes. She uses them for herself and 1-year-old daughter, Elee. Publicist Lacy Matsumoto, owner of Urban Pacific Communications, has been bringing her own food containers to take leftovers home for about three years. When in a bind, she’ll opt for restaurants that use biodegradable containers. She swore off straws after seeing so many of them strewn along the shoreline at a beach cleanup. "At the end of the day, I know I’ve reduced my waste in some way," she said. Artist Shannon McCarthy says it’s easy to BYOC. She makes most of her meals at home in a mason jar, but will also bring one with her to take food home. She also carries a pair of chopsticks with her, as well as a camping tool equipped with a knife, fork and spoon. For more on BYOC, visit thegreenleaf.staradvertiserblogs.com. Previous Story Local book roundup Next Story On The Scene: Enjoying the taste of 'Fire'