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Ban on disposable plastic food utensils and single-use bags starts Thursday in Honolulu

Starting Thursday, when a city ordinance aimed at reducing plastic pollution takes effect, Honolulu food vendors will be prohibited from providing or offering conventional, disposable service ware made of petroleum-derived plastic.

Disposable, plastic-free service ware may be provided only by request, or in a self-service area or dispenser.

That means no more plastic forks, knives, spoons, straws, stir sticks, picks or sushi grass will be allowed, while disposable items made of renewable materials, such as wood chopsticks, paper straws and bioplastic utensils, may be available.

These and other provisions represent the first phase of implementation for Ordinance 19-30, also known as Bill 40 or the Disposable Food Ware Ordinance, originally slated to take effect Jan. 1 but postponed for 90 days due to pandemic hardships on businesses and to allow for public education.

The ordinance also amends the city’s plastic- bag ban by modifying the definition of “plastic checkout bags,” now defined as plastic carryout bags with handles, not designed for long-term reuse, for carrying groceries, prepared food or other retail goods, and thin, flexible “plastic film bags”; still permissible are handleless bags in which customers place loose produce, nuts, grains, coffee and baked goods, or handleless bags used to keep frozen foods, meat, fish, flowers or potted plants from leaking moisture.

And in the food ware category, containers made of polystyrene foam, such as coffee cups and clamshells, cannot be sold, provided or offered for sale or use at city facilities, city-authorized concessions, city-sponsored/permitted events or city programs.

In the ordinance’s second phase, enforceable beginning Jan. 1, polystyrene foam food ware and disposable plastic food and service ware will be banned for use by all Honolulu businesses except as packaging for raw food, prepackaged food and shelf-stable food.

Vendors can apply for exemptions; for more information, visit opala.org, where the ordinance can be viewed in full, or call 768-3200, ext. 6.

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