Pono Market goes green

KAPAA — Pono Market is kicking its polystyrene containers out the door in an effort to help out the environment.

The market is 80 percent polystyrene free currently, and is working with distributors to secure the rest of the product needed to reach the goal of using only biodegradable take-out containers.

Switching out the Styrofoam comes at the urging of some of the members of the Kubota family, which owns Pono Market, and is in alignment with the Styrofoam Free Kaua’i campaign spearheaded by Yuri Cárdenas of Surfrider and Carolyn Price, a senior at Island School.

Price is working on a senior project to reduce polystyrene use on the island and has been meeting with restaurants, staff at the solid waste department and members of the county council on the subject.

She also has a goal to bring together the student government bodies of Kauai’s schools to present a unified front and testify for a polystyrene ban at upcoming council meetings to show youth support.

“There’s no reason to continue using it (Styrofoam),” Price said. “It’s know that Styrofoam is bad for the environment, it’s not great for health, and it’s not biodegradable, so no matter what happens, it’s with us in some sense.”

Concern for the environment in general, and particularity for the rapidly filling landfill, prompted the Kubota Family to start researching the switch, Robert Kubota said.

“We’ve been here since 1968 and we gotta do our part as best we can as a business,” Kubota said. “We (have to) be more conscious.”

Kubota became conscious of the amount of polystyrene used in today’s society when he was a student in the early 2000s at California State University Long Beach, where students made a lei out of the Styrofoam used on campus that day.

“It stretched all across campus, I’d say that’s maybe a quarter of a mile,” Kubota said. “That was just from one day.”

On a typical day at Pono Market, Kubota said they go through 100-200 polystyrene plates, and 200-300 polystyrene trays and it was connecting those numbers to his experience with the Styrofoam lei experience that brought Kubota on board with the switch.

“We’re doing the best we can and we’ve been thinking about it for a while,” Kubota said.

A statewide ban on polystyrene products would be helpful for Pono Market, Kubota said, because its biggest challenge is working with distributors.

“The vendors themselves would have to only have biodegradable products in stock and it would be easier,” Kubota said. “A total ban would make it easier for everybody.”

While there is a statewide ban floating around in the Legislature, Price said she’s focused on promoting a county ban on Styrofoam and is hoping her goal will pick up speed after the November election.

“We’re hoping other restaurants and businesses will follow their (Pono Market’s) lead in moving away from harmful Styrofoam products,” Price said. “Now it becomes a matter of educating the community on biodegradable and compostable products.”

Cárdenas said she is thrilled to connect with Price as she has also been meeting with restaurants, staff at the solid waste department and members of the county council to build the Styrofoam Free campaign.

“I’m excited to team up with Zero Waste and Surfrider Kauai to bring back the Styrofoam Free Kaua’i initiative,” Cárdenas said. “The easiest thing you can do is let restaurants know you care.”

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