The primary purpose of the ordinance is to prohibit food vendors from providing food in disposable food service containers that are made from expanded polystyrene foam (often incorrectly called “Styrofoam™”). The secondary purpose of the ordinance requires food vendors using disposable food service ware to use recyclable or compostable food service ware. The law was passed by the Hawai‘i County Council in September 2017 and became effective July 1, 2019; amendments to the law were passed in July 2019 and became effective July 19, 2019.
Polystyrene is identifiable by the plastic resin code #6 within following arrows.
REASONS FOR THE LAW
- Disposable single-use plastic food containers and service ware (utensils) contributes to litter. Because polystyrene foam containers are light they are easily carried by the wind and end up as litter.
- Polystyrene foam containers may degrade into microplastics which are harmful to animals that mistakenly ingest them. These containers are neither biodegradable or compostable.
- Single-use disposal polystyrene food service ware is not consistent with the County’s goal to reduce materials going into the landfills, therefore the County encourages residents to use reusable food service ware.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE LAW
- All County of Hawai‘i retail food establishments including supermarkets, stores, restaurants, take-outs, farmer’s markets and other food retailers must comply.
- As of July 1, 2019 all food vendors are prohibited from providing food to a customer in disposable food service ware that is made from polystyrene foam.
- As of July 1, 2019 all food vendors shall use suitable recyclable or compostable food service ware.
- “Food service ware” includes plates, bowls, cups, and containers and other items primarily designed for use in consuming food.
- Suitable recyclable plastics are those plastic materials that “may be processed into material utilized in the production of new products.” Suitable compostable food service ware are those that are certified compostable in an industrial composting facility by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), an independent third-party certification organization.
- As of July 1, 2019 all County of Hawai‘i facility users (requiring a County permit) shall use suitable recyclable or compostable products for disposable food service ware.
- For the purpose of this law, disposable food service ware excludes straws, cup lids, utensils, food-related bags and wrappers, packaging for unprepared food, and pre-packaged or pre-sealed items such as bread, cookies, milk, juice, snacks, candy, nuts, fruits, vegetables, or other items typically sold in a grocery store or a food manufacturer’s retail location.
- Foods packaged outside the geographical limits of the County of Hawai‘i
- Coolers and ice chests that are intended for reuse
- Packaging for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs that have not been further processed. Sashimi and poke shall be considered “prepared food” and are not exempt.
- Click on the following links to see the complete original Ordinance, 2019 Ordinance amendments, updated Hawai‘i County Code Chapter 20, updated Department of Environmental Management’s Administrative Rules.
- You can download a copy of the business or consumer educational materials at the bottom of this page. Or please send an email to request business or consumer educational materials (posters or brochures while supplies last) to or call 961-8554.
- Food Vendors and County Facility Users should consult with their food service ware suppliers/distributors to acquire compliant certified compostable or recyclable products. Food Vendors should consult the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health Sanitation Branch if they wish to provide their customers with reusable food or beverage containers.
- For more information on the law and answers to many questions please read our Polystyrene Foam Food Container & Food Service Ware Reduction Ordinance – Frequently Asked Questions.
County Facility Users Compliance Information
County Code Chapter §20-05-02 (b) states “All County facility users shall use suitable recyclable or compostable product for disposable food service ware.”
All County of Hawai‘i facility users who require a permit to reserve or rent a County facility or a permit or contract to use a sidewalk or roadway; or those who have concession contracts with the County, County managed concessions, County sponsored events and food services are covered by this law. Therefore this law also applies to County of Hawai‘i managed State of Hawai‘i parks, campgrounds or cabins.
County facility users or food vendors at County sponsored events who utilize disposable food service ware are required to use one (or more) of the following types of suitable recyclable or compostable disposable food service ware:
- Suitable recyclable plastics are those plastic materials that “may be processed into material utilized in the production of new products.”
- Suitable compostable (paper/fiber based or PLA (plastic)) disposable food service ware includes, but is not limited to: cups, bowls, plates, trays, cartons or containers that have been certified as compostable in an industrial composting facility by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), an independent third-party certification organization.
- Disposable food service ware excludes straws, cup lids, utensils, food-related bags and wrappers, packaging for unprepared food, and pre-packaged or pre-sealed items such as bread, cookies, milk, juice, snacks, candy, nuts, fruits, vegetables, or other items typically sold in a grocery store or a food manufacturer’s retail location. Also excluded are coolers or ice chests intended for reuse.
Reusable food service ware is also an option to comply with this law. Durable, washable, reusable, non-single-use disposable cups, plates, bowls, trays, containers and utensils are allowed.
Reusable Food Service Ware IS A GOOD Environmental Choice
High-quality reusable food service ware has the potential to replace over hundreds of single-use disposable ones over its lifetime. Reusable ware reduces litter and conserves natural resources making them a good choice! Certified compostable paper food service ware is another alternative to single-use plastic or expanded polystyrene.
Disposable food service ware such as utensils (e.g. forks, spoons, chopsticks and straws) and lids are not prohibited under this law, however, the County of Hawai‘i encourages food vendors to choose environmentally preferable alternatives like reusable or certified compostable ware.
Shop and dine with Aloha and bring your reusable food service ware and bag!
Reusable FOOD SERVICE WARE Tips
- Ask your favorite restaurant, store or take-out place if they use or sell reusable food or beverage service containers.
- Keep approved reusable food service ware conveniently by the door, in your car, or in your desk.
- Keep reusable food service ware utensils in pockets, backpacks, or your purse. They are handy for picnics or camping.
- Keep reusable food service ware clean by washing them regularly and thoroughly. Sanitize them regularly.
- Give compact reusable food service ware utensils to your friends & family. They make great gifts.
Additional Information & Resources:
Product Stewardship Institute’s 5 Steps to Reduce Plastic and Benefit Your Business: A Guide for Restaurants & Eateries (external website)