HONOLULU (KHON2) — No more extensions, city officials said the food ware ordinance banning disposable foam and plastic take-out containers goes into effect next week.

Starting Sept. 6, businesses will need to let go of the take-out containers they have been using for decades and switch over to biodegradable materials without petroleum.

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The City’s Recycling Program Branch Chief Henry Gabriel said there is a lot of chatter in the industry in anticipation of the change. 

“There seems to be a lot of anxiety out there and a lot of restaurants are calling, distributors are calling saying, ‘Ok, are you guys going to extend it again?’,” Gabriel said. “We’ve extended it several times, but we are not going to extend it this time, come September six the law will be in full effect.”

Gabriel said his office has received applications for exemptions, but it would be up to the restaurants to show why they need an exemption.

Some reasons could be no alternative compliant containers that meet their needs are available, or the ordinance is causing the business financial hardships.



About 30 applications have been received but only one exemption has been granted, and that was to push back the start date to Sept. 6.

Gabriel said, “If we don’t see that there’s enough or it is inefficient supporting documents, we will ask and if there’s no response then we got to you know, take a hard look at that application.”

Gabriel said containers for hot saucy foods are causing the most problems for restaurants, as well as lids for cups.

Vendors like ChefZone are helping restaurateurs navigate the change.

The company’s Director of Sales John Smiley said:

“When we started this process about a year ago, we could not find a manufacturer that would be able to meet our demand,” Smiley said. “As a company, we had to find what we thought would be the main manufacturer and then two backups.”

Suppliers said the containers compliant with the ordinance are costlier about three times the cost of foam containers.

K. Yamada Distributors Sales Representative Damon Haverly said they are trying to keep costs low, knowing many local businesses continue to struggle with overhead costs rising.  



Haverly said, “We’re a small business we are a family-owned business, and we don’t see that as an opportunity to make these huge margins, so we are keeping it as tight as we possibly can.”

Haverly said they have transitioned their customers to materials that are up to code.

City officials will be visiting businesses after Sept. 6, and they will use an educational approach before handing out any warnings or citations.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association President Sheryl Matsuoka said any businesses with questions about the containers can contact their office.

Matsuoka said, “If there’s a restaurant out there that is not sure where number one the products that they are putting their takeout in is compliant call me at Hawaii Restaurant Association, and I could help them with people who have the right products.”

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For more information on the City’s food ware ordinance, click here.