Maui County, HI enacts ban on polystyrene food containers
- Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa signed a bill into law this week that bans the sale of polystyrene food containers, as reported by The Maui News.
- As written, Bill 127 prohibits the sale of many expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) or polystyrene plastic containers at retail or food establishments. Exemptions are included for packaging material, coolers designed for reuse, and packaging for eggs and raw meat or fish.
- The law is set to take full effect on December 31, 2018. Violations could cost up to $1,000 per day, which Arakawa has said he finds excessive. Arakawa also noted that efforts should be made to avoid unintended consequences for low-income families that may frequently purchase items with polystyrene packaging such as ramen noodles.
Maui's County Council unanimously passed this bill last month and the local government has been similarly supportive of other packaging ordinances, such as a plastic bag ban, in the past. One estimate indicates that 65,000 pounds of polystyrene products may be used in Hawaii every day.
Like any material, polystyrene products can be recycled when clean streams are collected. Though the logistics of densifying EPS products in particular can be hard for some municipalities and end markets aren't readily available everywhere. This is already a factor in multiple regions of the country, with the transportation logistics of an island state raising those costs even higher.
The manufacturing industry disputes these perceived challenges, as well as environmental concerns about their material that are often raised, and is actively working to expand polystyrene recycling opportunities. The most recent example is in New York, where the industry is backing a City Council bill to codify polystyrene recycling at the same time the city is attempting to ban its use for the second time. The debate has gone to court before and may well end up there again, with the outcome seen as a key precedent for similar discussions in other cities around the country. Though for island governments such as Maui that see the effects of marine pollution every day, the choice has caused less consternation.
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