Oahu Chapter

Disposable Food Ware Ordinance (Bill 40)

BILL 40 IS UNDER THREAT – TAKE ACTION NOW

On December 10th, 2020, the City and County of Honolulu announced a 90-Day Education Period, effectively delaying the implementation of this law by 3 months. While this is a reasonable and compassionate response to the challenging time that restaurants face, we must also be clear that the industry voices asking for these exemptions and delays were the same ones who opposed this Bill from the start.

And these same voices have consistently opposed taking action on plastic pollution for over a decade, citing they need more time. Yet given over a decade, still they ask for more and more time. Our oceans, beaches, and communities are drowning in plastic and overconsumption of disposable food ware. This is one important and powerful step towards solving one of our most pressing environmental problems.

When the bill passed in December of 2019, these same big business interests and corporate lobbyists asked for exemptions and delays–months before the pandemic began to impact our island. We must not let special interests override the will of the people and undermine the democratic process. Bill 40 passed with a 7-2 vote in City Council and with a wide coalition of youth, businesses, and community members in support. So many businesses support this bill and are ready to comply with the law.

ABOUT THE DISPOSABLE FOOD WARE ORDINANCE (DFWO)

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 Oʻahu. This bill serves as a jumping off point for other islands in Hawaiʻi, and hopefully the Nation!

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

As of January 2021, Bill 40 will ban disposable plastic serviceware, like plastic straws, stirrers, utensils, and others including baran (plastic sushi grass). Disposable serviceware will be by request, by affirmative response, or in a self-service area or dispenser. Additionally, and the city will no longer use polystyrene foam food ware (aka Styrofoam) for their events/operations. 

As soon as January 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 some exemptions that can be explored below!


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

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 20201, 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!