Check any office trash can after lunch, and chances are it’ll be filled with plastic foam takeout containers.

We wanted to know — “Why Do We Use So Much Plastic Foam in Hawaii?”

At Civil Beat, we believe Change Begins with a Question™.

One might assume most of the plastic foam containers in the islands are imported from the mainland. But as it turns out, some plastic foam is made locally — right here in Hawaii.

In fact, one company even sees some of its foam exported. Pacific Allied Products of Kapolei manufactures foam containers that fishing companies use to keep fish cold when shipping to the mainland.

But Pacific Allied Products is just a tiny fish next to big mainland producers.

“We’re very, very small,” CEO Bernie Coleman said. He estimated that his company makes about 200,000 containers each year. “Some places make 200,000 in a week.”

Another manufacturer on Oahu, K. Yamada Distributors sells plastic foam food trays and containers. Some of those come from Hawaii Foam Products, a sister company.

Foam trays holding meat sold at the Waipio Costco come from K. Yamada Distributors, said assistant Costco warehouse manager Gayle Kawamura.

But these small manufacturers aren’t the main show when it comes to foam food containers. That distinction belongs to big companies such as Dart and Pactiv (the company that makes Hefty products). More on them later.

Coming next: How does most plastic foam get to Hawaii? What does that supply chain look like?

Read our related stories about plastic foam in Hawaii:

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