On May 18, Maui County became the latest municipality to pass legislation outlawing the use of polystyrene foam food containers. Though over 100 cities and counties have passed similar legislation in the state of California alone, Maui County was the first in Hawaii to successfully pass the bill through the county council. The bill extends to the islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kaho‘olawe, and prohibits the use and distribution of polystyrene foam containers by both food distributors and retailers.
Polystyrene foam (commonly referred to under the tradename “styrofoam”) is ubiquitous in Hawaii’s food industry, and over time it has become synonymous with the Hawaii’s staple “plate lunch.” Despite the fact that the original plate lunch was served on paper plates and covered in tin foil, the plastics and food retailers industry launched a statewide “Don’t Take Our Plate Lunch” campaign to discourage the legislation. Hawaii has the highest per capita use of polystyrene foam in the United States. Extrapolating from the City and County of Honolulu’s 2006 Waste Characterization Study, it is estimated that Hawaii generates an average of 44,500-65,965 pounds of polystyrene waste per day.