Popular grocery item included in Maui polystyrene ban

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Maui County residents are getting ready for some changes next week. 

Starting Monday, Dec. 31, polystyrene will be banned for many every day items, but one item in particular caught some distributors off guard. 

Maui County businesses had a little over a year to prepare for Monday’s foam plate ban. The bill was signed into law back in June 2017. 

“I would say the majority of our customers have been waiting until the very last day,” said 
Todd Kawasaki, president at Maui Chemical & Paper Products. 

Kawasaki also owns TJ’s Warehouse in Wailuku, he says one item caught his company off-guard and raised questions about other popular grocery items. 

“Last week we found out that cup noodles, or instant ramen, is included in the foam ban so we kind of panicked because we didn’t think that was included,” Kawasaki said. 

His company filed for an extension with the County of Maui.

“The county allowed us an extra six months to get rid of our stock,” he said. 

He tells KHON2, makers of foam noodle cups have already stopped shipping to Maui. Another item he asked about was Natto, a traditional Japanese food made of fermented soybeans. 

“All international Natto comes in little foam containers,” he said.

“So we checked with the county and they said because it’s raw and unprepared, it’s excluded from the ban so it’s okay to sell in the store,” Kawasaki said. 

“It seems all of the restaurants are prepared, but the grocery stores that sell packaged foam products, I don’t think they’re prepared,” he said. 

The new law says businesses cannot use or sell foam food service containers, which includes clamshell containers, cups, plates, bowls and serving trays.

If food or drinks can be served on it and its made of expanded polystyrene foam, it’s not allowed.

Raw meats, fish and eggs are allowed, but vegetables on serving trays will be banned.

“It’s good for the environment,” said Kawasaki. “You’ll see less foam flying around at the beaches and in the water.”

That’s why one business owner made the switch away from foam years ago, when he saw his handwriting on one of his own cups at the Maui dump. 

“It was sort of a moment for me because I realized how long ago I had written it, and that cup was already old but it still looked very put together like it wasn’t going anywhere,” said Christopher “Malik” Cousins, owner of Local Boys Shave Ice and Farmacy Health Bar.

He says he was able to charge more without questions. 

“I realized I could raise my price just a little bit, maybe a quarter, and if anyone ever asked how come we just tell them we went green,” he said. 

Anyone with questions before the switch Monday should call the county’s Enviornmental Protection and Sustainability Division.

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