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Maui Polystyrene Ban Signed into Law

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa signed Bill 127 into law on Monday relating to restricting the use and sale of polystyrene foam containers in Maui County.  The law is set to go into effect on Dec. 31, 2018.

The Maui County Council unanimously approved of the bill [1] last month.  Supporters of the bill spoke of the environmental benefits, while opponents argued about the cost and lack of recycling options for alternative containers.

Polystyrene ban approved by council. Graphic: Maui Now. File background image courtesy Office of Council Services.

In a letter to the council and Chair Mike White, Arakawa said, “It gives me great pleasure to sign into law this ban on foam polystyrene food service containers, as it furthers the environmental protections for our community that we first enacted when we signed the plastic bag ban into law back in 2011.”

“There was a lot of research that went into crafting this bill, and for many restaurants and food serving establishments, pricing was an issue.  The bottom line is that right now, there is no product out there that is cheaper than polystyrene containers.  At least, not yet,” said Mayor Arakawa.  He continued, “However, since this law does not go into effect until 2019, I believe there should be plenty of time for manufacturers, distributors and retailers who buy, sell and use takeout food containers to adjust to the new market.”

In the end, Mayor Arakawa said “the benefits outweigh any of the perceived inconveniences to our community.”

While he said he supports the bill, Mayor Arakawa expressed several concerns, which he said he hopes the council will look at, and take up before the law goes into effect including the following:

Under the law, food providers shall not sell, use, provide or offer the use of polystyrene foam food service containers.  The containers shall not be sold, used provided or offered for use at any County facility, County-authorized concession, County-sponsored or County permitted event or program.  The law also states that polystyrene foam food service containers shall not be offered for sale or sold in the county.

There are some exemptions outlined.  The law does not apply to polystyrene foam food containers used for raw or butchered meats, poultry, fish or eggs unless provided for consumption without further food preparation such as sashimi and poke. Polystyrene foam coolers and ice chests specifically designed and manufactured for multiple re-use are also exempt from the law, as are foam blocks or pieces used as protective packaging during shipping.