Styrofoam food containers may be banned in near future

Plate lunches could soon be looking a lot different.

A bill banning styrofoam food containers is up for vote in the City Council on Thursday. City Councilman Stanley Chang believes it’s time to outlaw those containers, and he’s introduced Bill 40 to do just that.

“Styrofoam is one of the leading causes of litter in the marine environment, between 10 and 20 percent, according to studies,” he said. “Over a million seabirds die every year due to plastic consumption. We’re also concerned about the effect on human health because styrene is also a carcinogen.”

If Bill 40 passes, no styrofoam food containers can be used on Oahu come January 2016.

There’s a decided difference in opinion on the proposed ban from businessmen like Eddie Flores of L&L Hawaiian Barbeque, much of it has to do with economics.

“For the styrofoam box, it costs about 10 cents,” Flores said. “For the compost box, it will be about 40 cents. That’s about four times more … and at the end, the consumer is going to pay for it.”

Chang said he understands the concerns of retailers and wants them to be involved in the solution.

“Many jurisdictions across the country have already banned styrofoam,” he said, “and that includes the University of Hawaii right here on Oahu, Hawaii county, the city of San Francisco. The businesses and the vendors have been able to make adjustments accordingly and I think it’s not a problem.”

Flores maintains, however, that the local dining style is considerably different from other places in the country and that it requires the use of the sturdier styrofoam containers.

“Can you imagine if you buy chicken long rice, put in a paper box, wait about a couple minutes and find out what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s the same with beef stew, lau lau, so it does not make sense. I think the City Council should look into the local food consumption and decide against it.”

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