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Big Island’s polystyrene foam ban for food vendors starts Monday

Hawaii County’s polystyrene foam ban goes into effect on Monday.

Starting Monday, food service vendors and supermarkets in Hawaii County will be prohibited from serving plate lunches and takeout to customers in single-use food containers made from polystyrene foam.

Hawaii County’s polystyrene foam ordinance goes into effect a year and a half after a similar one on Maui County went into effect on Dec. 31, 2018.

The intention of the new law, which the Hawaii County Council passed in September 2017, is to “improve environmental quality on the island and in the neighboring marine environment,” according to a news release.

Because the polystyrene foam containers are light, they are easily carried by the wind, and end up as litter, said the county’s department of environment. In addition, they degrade into microplastics that are harmful to animals, and are not biodegradable.

The county set up a small-business advisory committee to help draft rules in preparation for the new law, and encouraged restaurants and food vendors to adopt certified compostable foodware.

Starting Monday, the county said all food vendors shall use suitable recyclable or compostable foodware.

The polystyrene foam ban includes plates, bowls, cups and containers.

Straws, cup lids, utensils and film wraps are not included, but the county “encourages the use of environmentally preferable alternatives.”

Packaging for raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs are also exempt.

However, packaging for ready-to-consume sashimi and poke are not exempt.

Fines for violations by food vendors range from $10 for the first violation to $50 for the second, and up to $200 for third and subsequent violations.

More details are available hawaiizerowaste.org.

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