HILO, Hawaii — A ban on foam food containers goes into effect July 1, 2019, on the Big Island.

Mayor Harry Kim said on Wednesday he plans to sign the ban that was passed by the Hawaii County Council, West Hawaii Today reported (http://bit.ly/2flc2FQ ). The county will become the second in the state to institute a ban on the plate lunch containers. Maui County’s ban will go into effect Dec. 31, 2018.

Supporters said the ban is needed to protect marine wildlife. Polystyrene, popularly called “Styrofoam,” breaks down into minute pieces of plastic that enter the ocean and lodge in the guts of fish and birds that ingest them, they said.

“You put it in the trash can and the trash can is overflowing, and then it’s out there harming the environment,” said bill sponsor Eileen O’Hara, who represents parts of Puna.

Opponents said alternative plates, clamshells and cups cost more and mean higher takeout food costs for consumers. The alternatives may not keep food as hot and are more likely to leak, they said.

An education program will begin January 2019 to get people prepared for the ban. Fines range from $10 to $600 per violation but violators will be warned before receiving fines.

The bill exempts coolers, county facility users and food vendors with county approval and providers of supplies during county emergencies declared by the mayor.

Kim said he appreciates the lengthy implementation period because it will allow food vendors to deplete their inventory. In his prior term, he vetoed a plastic grocery bag ban because it did not give merchants time to use their existing stock, he said.

Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski, who’s been closely working with the council on the bill, said the department will begin working on rules to implement the ordinance. He said there’s a yet unknown cost that will have to be factored into the department’s budget.

Hilo’s two council members, Aaron Chung and Sue Lee Loy, were the only two no votes.

They have said the bill unfairly singles out one source of polystyrene, while allowing other polystyrene containers — such as egg cartons and coolers.


Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com