Oahu Chapter

Disposable Food Ware Ordinance (Bill 40)

Bill 40, the DFWO, went into effect on April 1, 2021 and will be fully implemented on January 1, 2022.


Ordinance 19-30 (previously Bill 40) passed in December 2019 and stood as one of the most comprehensive plastic bans in the nation at the time of passing.

It affects the City and County of Honolulu, which encompasses the island of Oʻahu (over 70% of Hawaii’s population!). Maui soon followed, by passing Bill 52, a similar comprehensive single-use plastic ban.

What does the Disposable Food Ware Ordinance (DFWO) encompass?

As of April 2021, Ordinance 19-30 will ban disposable plastic serviceware, like plastic straws, stirrers, utensils, and others including baran (plastic sushi grass). Plastic bags with handles will no longer be allowed to be distributed by food establishments, and paper and reusable bags must only be given with at least a 15 cent charge.

All of this disposable serviceware will be available upon request only, by affirmative response, or in a self-service area or dispenser. Additionally, the City will no longer be permitted to use polystyrene foam food ware (aka Styrofoam) for their events/operations. 

Starting January 1, 2022, the expanded ban on plastic ware will go into effect. This section bans most other single-use plastic containers, like cups, lids, and takeout containers, and includes all foam. It applies widely to prepared take-out food, with exemptions for grab-and-go, catering, and other circumstances.

The City has also released this helpful and informational pamphlet, available to view and/or download! Official City website here.

If I see a restaurant not complying, how can I help?

We have been seeing reports of some confusion and lack of compliance among businesses, so we drafted an email template you can use to provide information and support around this law!

We are reaching out regarding Ordinance 19-30, the Disposable Foodware Ordinance, which went into effect in April 2021. Per City law, you should be ceasing the use of any disposable plastic bags with handles and instead using paper or reusable bags (handles okay) and charging a minimum of 15 cents for each bag. In addition, businesses are prohibited from distributing disposable petroleum-based plastic serviceware (including utensils, stirrers, straws)! Instead, you can offer paper or certified compostable utensils, stirrers, straws, and other serviceware. 
For all of these items (bags, utensils, stirrers, straws), they should only be given to customers upon request only. This will save your business a lot of money. You simply need to ask if they need these items before finalizing an order. Many online menus also include this option that customers can select to request them.

If you do not comply with the ordinance your restaurant can incur a fine of up to $1,000!  Please know that all distributors offer the paper and compostable options that are compliant, and we would love to see you transition! Sustainable Island Products is one distributor that we recommend, as they are a local company that exclusively offers compostable and reusable products for businesses.
If you need more information or extra support, visit the City’s website on the ordinance or contact the City’s Recycling Branch at businessrecycle@honolulu.gov or (808) 768-3200 ext. 6.
Thank you

I manage a restaurant, what changes will I have to make?

Don’t Panic! Avoiding plastic is easier than you think! Under the DFWO, you will have to make the switch to non-plastic items; bio-plastic items are available, but bamboo or other wooden items are preferable! Here is a list of awesome companies around the island supplying items that we support to help make the switch as seamless as possible:

For all of your container needs: https://www.sustainableislandproducts.com/
Bamboo utensils and durable paper straws made here on the island: https://blutensils.com/

If you want resources for making the switch, and see examples of success- click here!

How will this help Oʻahu?

Tons of pounds of single-use plastics are disposed of in Oʻahu every day, and with no way to be recycled, many find their way into the ocean.  These materials bind to chemicals, and won’t break down for hundreds of years. Go to any one of our beautiful beaches, and the evidence of this pollution is immediately evident.  This new law will ensure that restaurants and businesses are following best practices to reduce our plastic waste! 

What was the process in passing this ordinance?

A tremendous effort was put forth by not only the Oʻahu chapter of Surfrider to support and testify in support, to bring the bill through each hearing.  It was introduced by councilman Joey Manahan, and supported also by councilman Tommy Waters. Eventually, after months of hearings in the house and senate, Oʻahu mayor Kirk Caldwell passed the bill into law, hooray!

When will the law take effect?

There are two phases of this ordinance. The first is effective January of 2021, and the second is effective January of 2022. See above for a more detailed timeline. 

What else can I do to reduce my personal waste?

Reducing personal waste is a huge part of slowing ocean pollution, as well as leading the movement by example, and we support it! Bringing reusable cups and containers saves a huge amount of waste with a minimal amount of effort.  If you’re interested in fun alternatives to wasteful kitchen items, see the websites below!

Foodware-utensils and bags: Surfrider Online Store
For a one-stop shop of almost all of your zero waste needs, located in Kailua, Protea Zero Waste
Reusable beeswax container/wraps: Meli Wraps
Two stores in Kaimuki offer zero waste shopping options: Keep it Simple and Everyday Better
This online store started by 2 Kaiser High School students, now graduated, has many zero waste lifestyle products: RPlanet

Other items you can consider switching to, sold widely: reusable produce bags, bamboo toothbrushes, tablet toothpaste.  Have a tip not on this list? Email us and share your ideas at policy@oahu.surfrider.org!

What about my MUSUBIS!?

We got you covered! Pre-packaged food items are exempt from this ban and food-related bags and wrappers are not regulated, so keep the musubis coming!

I have more questions, where can I find the entire bill?

You can find the entire ordinance here, and for a list of defined terms used in the rules, see here!