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Law Restricting Plastic Utensils on O‘ahu Takes Effect

Adam Jones/Creative Commons/Flickr

Honolulu food vendors won't be allowed to provide customers with plastic utensils under a new law that took effect Thursday. The city ordinance prohibits plastic forks, knives, spoons, straws, stir sticks, picks and sushi grass.

The rules were originally due to kick in on Jan. 1, but were postponed for 90 days because of the hardship they would place on businesses during the pandemic and to allow for more public education.

Other cities such as San Francisco and Seattle have already banned some single-use plastics. Advocates say the plastic becomes trash that pollutes the ocean and contributes to climate change because oil is used in their production.

Honolulu vendors may provide disposal utensils, but only if they do not contain plastic derived from petroleum.

The new rules include limits on plastic foam at city facilities. Food containers made of plastic foam — such as coffee cups and clamshells — may not be sold, provided or offered for sale or use at city facilities, city-authorized concessions or at city-sponsored and permitted events.

The law will broaden its reach next January, when all Honolulu businesses will be prohibited from using plastic foam containers and plastic service ware except for raw, prepackaged and shelf-stable food.

The city already prohibits most plastic bags, as do Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties.

The city will allow retailers to use thin, “plastic film bags” that don't have handles that customers may use to place loose produce, nuts and other products in. It will also allow bags without handles that people may use to keep meat, fish and other products from leaking moisture.

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