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Maui’s foam takeout-container ban takes effect at year’s end

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WAILUKU >> A Maui County law banning a common way of serving up popular plate lunches takes effect at the end of the year.

Maui is the first county in the state to ban polystyrene foam containers. The ban takes effect on the Big Island on July 1.

Starting Dec. 31, Maui businesses won’t be allowed to use or sell foam food containers, including hinged clamshell containers, plates, bowls and cups. Polystyrene food containers still may be used for raw or butchered meats, poultry, fish or eggs — food that needs further preparation to eat, according to the county.

Supporters have said the measure will reduce pollution. Opponents have said small businesses and consumers will face higher costs for biodegradable containers.

County officials have been sending informational packets to businesses and attending public hearings, The Maui News reported. An estimated 2,000 businesses will be affected by the new law, said Tamara Farnsworth of the county’s Department of Environmental Management.

“Enacting this type of legislation is an action we can take at a local level to combat the huge issue of plastics in the environment, and in particular, for us living in island communities,” said Farnsworth, manager of the department’s Environmental Protection and Sustainability Division. “It’s important to keep in mind that plastics never go away; they break down into smaller bits but do not degrade for hundreds of years.”

Consumers should consider these consequences when making purchasing decisions, she said.

Local Boys Shave Ice and Farmacy Health Bar owner Christopher “Malik” Cousins stopped using foam cups 10 years ago when he saw one of his cups blow past him at the landfill.

“It was from years before,” he said of the cup. He raised prices by 10 cents or 15 cents when he switched to compostable cups, and “nobody noticed,” he said.

Joel Kawasaki has phased out the white foam containers at his food business, but he’s reluctant to raise prices.

Kawasaki’s business also uses food containers. He said a foam lunch plate costs around 12 cents, while an environmentally friendly one costs about 25 cents or more.

Not complying with the law could result in fines of up to $1,000 per day.

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