Journal of Environmental Protection, 2011, 2, 1264-1273
doi:10.4236/jep.2011.29146 Published Online October 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for
Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA
Michele Barnes*, Catherine Chan-Halbrendt, Quanguo Zhang, Noe Abejon
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, USA.
Email: *
Received September 16th, 2011; revised October 17th, 2011; accepted November 3rd, 2011.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS), a petroleum based plastic polystyrene, has an immense environmental impact with a deg-
radation rate of over 500 years, and is a possible human carcinogen that may cause cancer in humans. Nonetheless,
EPS is the most commonly used material to produce takeout food containers, a single use item that is quickly discarded.
With growing recognition of the high environmental costs of EPS products and their pressure on landfill resources,
EPS food container bans have become increasingly popular in jurisdictions across the globe. Similar legislation has
been introduced in the state of Hawaii, USA. However, since EPS is currently more cost effective than its alternatives,
the widespread adoption of food containers produced with biodegradable materials remains a challenge. This study
employs Conjoint Choice Experiment (CCE) to determine consumer preference and willingness to pay for plant-based
EPS alternative takeout food containers and their various product attributes in the urban center of Honolulu, Hawaii.
Latent Class Analysis (LCA) is used to cluster respondents into four distinct classes based on their observable attributes
of choice. Results show that the majority of respondents (81.0%) are in favor of a ban on EPS takeout food containers.
As an alternative, the majority of respondents prefer a container constructed out of a sugarcane material (66.49%) that
is microwaveable (88.94%), water resistant (100%), and locally produced (51.23%). Moreover, this study demonstrates
an increase in consumers willingness to pay for more environmentally friendly food containers, which may allow
businesses to offset the costs of substituting EPS for biodegradable materials. These findings provide valuable informa-
tion for farmers, manufacturers, and natural resource managers, and can help to guide decision makers when consid-
ering socially responsible and environmentally sustainable policies.
Keywords: Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), Plastic Food Containers, Conjoint Choice Experiment (CCE), Latent Class
Analysis (LCA), Consumer Preference, Honolulu
1. Introduction
Expanded polystyrene (EPS), a form of the petroleum
based plastic polystyrene, is the most commonly used
material to produce takeout food containers, often used
once and then discarded. However, the continued use of
EPS faces a number of challenges regarding its chemical
composition, inefficient recycling process, and life-cycle
longevity, which make it a serious hazard to the envi-
ronment [1-3].
EPS and other plastics were the fastest-growing frac-
tion of the United States municipal waste stream from
1970 to 2003 [1], which was largely a result of a society
shifting from reusable, biomass based materials to syn-
thetic, disposable materials. In 1960, American consu-
mers used approximately 270,000 tons of disposable plates
and cups [4]. However, this number jumped three-fold to
2.07 million tons in 2009, of which 710,000 tons, or one-
third, were made with EPS [5]. Furthermore, EPS and other
plastic containers and packaging increased from 120,000
tons in 1960 to 12.5 million tons in 2009, 470,000 of which
were made from expanded polystyrene [5].
With a degradation rate exceeding 500 years [6], EPS
has substantial long-term impacts. Although EPS can be
recycled, the actual recycling process can only achieve a
40:1 compression ratio and is hindered with high trans-
portation costs and low market value, making recycling
cost-prohibitive [4,7]. New technology that can achieve a
90:1 compression ratio has recently been tested [8], but
even if the technology is established, EPS is made from
non-renewable resources and will continue to be a long-
term challenge to waste-stream management and the glo-
bal environment.
Due to their life-cycle longevity and widespread use,
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA1265
EPS and other plastics also currently make up 60% - 95%
of marine debris worldwide, have been found in the
stomachs of 44% of marine bird species, and have other-
wise harmed 267 species of marine organisms including
turtles, sea lions, and cetaceans [1]. In Hawaii, 72% of all
marine debris by weight consists of plastics [9].
Moreover, styrene, the basic building block of EPS, is
classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA
and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer
(IARC), and the manufacturing process of EPS has been
reported by the EPA as the fifth largest creator of ha-
zardous waste in the US [10].
Such concerns have been the basis of numerous legis-
lative actions worldwide to limit or ban the use of EPS
takeout food containers and other EPS products. In 1999,
China’s State Economic and Trade Commission pro-
mpted Chinese cities to enact legislation limiting the use
of EPS products [8,11]. In the US, several cities such as
Minneapolis (Minnesota), Freeport (Maine), Portland
(Oregon), Malibu (California), and San Francisco (Cali-
fornia) have banned EPS takeout food containers [12]. In
2008, Hawaii joined the states of New York and Califor-
nia in considering a statewide ban on EPS takeout food
containers [13].
As awareness about the long-term effects of EPS and
resulting EPS food container bans increase, there is a need
to find cost-effective substitutes. This is particularly per-
tinent in the state of Hawaii. According to the Economic
Census of the US Census Bureau, Hawaiian citizens con-
sume the highest amount of takeout food per capita than
any other state in the US [14]. In addition, the landfills of
Hawaii are at or near capacity [15], with the overflow of
waste presenting such a problem that city officials have
even considered the short-term and expensive avenue of
shipping trash outside of Hawaii [16]. Landfill capacity is
equally a concern in other small island states, such as
Taiwan, Japan, and the United Kingdom [4].
There are a number of plant-based alternative substi-
tute materials to produce food containers such as paper,
as well as other biodegradable agricultural resources such
as sugarcane or corn. However, EPS is currently more cost
effective than its alternatives [4], with the average take-
out order costing an additional $0.15 - $0.20 USD to be
packaged with biodegradable EPS alternative products
[17]. Recognizing this, when a ban was proposed in Ha-
waii, the State Health Department testified that the prac-
tical impacts of substituting EPS based food containers
with other materials relating to the food industry and
consumers needed further examination [18].
However, there have been no published studies to date
on consumer preferences and economic trade-offs among
EPS alternative takeout food containers. Although, stu-
dies show that concern for the environment has become a
key issue for the packaging and container industry, with
an increasing number of consumers seeking ecologically
minded and biodegradable products [19-23]. Therefore, a
study on consumer preference for substitute food con-
tainer materials would be helpful to the food and con-
tainer industry and decision makers worldwide.
The purpose of this study is to determine consumer
preference for more environmentally friendly plant-based
EPS alternative takeout food containers in the city of Ho-
nolulu, and their willingness to pay for substitute materi-
als and trade-offs among important food container attri-
butes. Exploring consumer preference and willingness to
pay (WTP) for more environmentally friendly food con-
tainers in Honolulu could be useful for policy makers and
the container industry, particularly in Hawaii and similar
small island states, as well as in other coastal and urban
If, in fact, consumers prefer alternatives to EPS and are
willing to pay for EPS substitutes, businesses and the
takeout food container industry may be able to minimize
the potentially adverse effects of an EPS ban and begin
producing and offering more preferred environmentally
friendly options. Moreover, an increased amount of com-
postable and biodegradable containers substituted for
EPS containers could lessen the environmental impact of
packaging, decrease dependence on foreign oil, and shrink
landfill requirements [4].
The specific objectives of this study are as follows: 1)
determine the public’s preferences for takeout food con-
tainers made with alternative plant-based materials; 2)
explore different plant-based food container market seg-
ments using latent class analysis; 3) calculate the will-
ingness to pay (WTP) for plant-based alternative food
containers and the preferred food container attributes; 4)
provide market and industry implications for food con-
tainer producers, policy makers, and other decision ma-
2. Methodology
2.1. Research Design
In order to investigate consumer preference and WTP for
plant-based alternative takeout food containers and their
attributes, a survey questionnaire was designed. The
questionnaire consists of three parts: 1) information on
preferences and habits related to takeout food consump-
tion; 2) socio-economic profile of respondents; and 3)
preference for alternative plant-based takeout food con-
tainer attributes. For the first part of the survey, five ge-
neral questions were asked: a) the frequency of takeout
food consumption; b) the frequency of takeout food con-
tainer use; c) the frequency of recycling or composting; d)
the respondent’s decision to recycle or compost their
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA
takeout food container if provided with that option; e) the
respondents support for a local ban on EPS takeout food
containers. These questions were asked in order to ex-
plore the respondent’s general attitude toward recycling,
composting, and the use EPS takeout food containers to
determine the impact of the willingness to substitute EPS
containers with alternative materials. In order to effec-
tively communicate the purpose of the study to the re-
spondents, EPS was referred to as ‘Styrofoam®’ on the
questionnaire [2].
The second part of the survey questionnaire collected
socio-demographic information of respondents, while the
third part utilized Conjoint Choice Experiment (CCE) to
produce efficient survey takeout food container profiles
that were presented to respondents to state their takeout
food container choice. CCE, originally developed by
Louviere and Woodworth [24], is an indirect method for
studying hypothetical markets and product preferences
that has been used in a number of environmental studies
in recent years for valuing non-market assets [22,25-28].
CCE is based on the idea that any good can be described
in terms of its product attributes, or characteristics, and
the levels that these attributes take [29]. For example,
takeout food containers have product attributes such as
the type of material used to produce them, along with
other functional food container attributes such as whether
it is water resistant or microwaveable, etc. Using CCE,
these attributes can be combined into different takeout
food container profiles for respondents to choose from.
Respondents are then given a choice set comprised of a
number of tasks. Each task contains a number of profiles
comprised of varying combinations of the product attri-
butes, and respondents are asked to choose which product
profile they most prefer from each task.
One of the greatest advantages of CCE is that it imi-
tates real world decision making by forcing the respon-
dent to make tradeoffs between product attributes [30].
Preferences for estimated part-worth utilities, or percei-
ved benefits, for each attribute can then be estimated
based on the profiles chosen by the respondent [28].
This study follows the stages of CCE design summa-
rized by Chan-Halbrendt et al. [30], where the attributes
are selected and the attribute levels assigned, followed by
the construction of choice sets, data collection, and fi-
nally, data analysis. The selected attributes were based on
current market options for EPS alternatives and extensive
literature review of similar case studies in U.S. cities and
institutions for important functional food container char-
acteristics [8,31-33]. A summary of the selected attributes
and their levels is shown in Table 1.
Product Attributes and their Levels for this study:
1) Type of Material. The purpose of this study is to de-
termine consumer preference for takeout food containers
Table 1. EPS alternative takeout food container attributes
and levels.
Attributes Levels
Type of Material Paper Corn Sugarcane
Microwaveable Yes No
Water Resistant Yes No
Locally Produced Yes No
Price per Container $0.10 $0.20 $0.30 $0.40
made from more environmentally friendly materials than
EPS. Therefore, type of material was selected as one of
the attributes. Currently, plant based materials such as su-
garcane and corn are being used as substitutes for EPS by
companies marketing more environmentally friendly food-
ware products, including takeout food containers [17,34].
Paper is another alternative, which has been found to be
preferred by some consumers over plastics [35]. As a re-
sult, sugarcane, corn, and paper were selected as the best
choices for the materials to be used in this study. Thus,
paper, corn and sugarcane made up the three levels of the
‘type of material’ attribute in the CCE.
2) Microwaveable. EPS food containers have been re-
ported to leach toxic chemicals into foods under the ac-
tion of microwaves [36] and are therefore not microwav-
able. However, being microwaveable is a commonly mar-
keted characteristic of food containers made from EPS
alternatives [37-39]. Furthermore, having a microwave-
able food container may be important to consumers or-
dering hot takeout food that may cool before they are
able to consume it. Thus, microwaveable was chosen as
an attribute. This attribute consisted of only two levels:
yes or no, meaning the container in question was either
microwaveable or not.
3) Water Resistant. Though there are no previous pub-
lications specifically on consumer preference for takeout
food container attributes, studies on packaging and con-
tainers show that functionality characteristics are impor-
tant for consumers [28]. Having a water resistant con-
tainer is an important basic functional characteristic of
food containers that may hold any sort of liquid or sauce,
and water resistance is a highly advertised attribute of
food containers currently on the market [37-39]. There-
fore, water resistant was included as an attribute in this
study, with two levels: yes or no, meaning the container
was either water resistant or not.
4) Locally Produced. Due to the extreme isolation of
Hawaii and the high reliance on imported products, lo-
cally produced was included as an attribute in order to
investigate its importance to consumers. This attribute
consisted of two levels: yes or no, indicating that the pro-
duct was either locally produced or not.
opyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA1267
5) Price. Product cost is known to be a key economic
factor for consumer choice [27], therefore, price was in-
cluded as an attribute. The levels for price were deter-
mined by reviewing the cost of currently produced EPS
food container alternatives, where it was determined that
$0.10 - $0.40 USD per container was a reasonable range
for more environmentally friendly alternatives. Thus, there
were 4 levels for the cost attribute: $0.10, $0.20, $0.30,
and $0.40.
Previous studies have shown that age, gender, and edu-
cation level can all be important factors affecting con-
sumer preference for more environmentally friendly
packaging [21]. To explore how these socio-economic
factors might affect consumer choices for EPS food con-
tainer alternatives, and how well the study population
matches the population of Honolulu (75% of the popula-
tion), this data was also collected from respondents.
2.2. Statistical Design and Analysis
When administering a CCE experiment, respondents are
asked to choose from different profiles of goods made up
of each attribute and one of its differing levels. In this
study there are five attributes. The type of material attrib-
ute has three levels, while price has four. The remaining
attributes have only two levels. Therefore, a complete
factorial design including all possible combinations of
attributes and levels would use 96 (3*2*2*2*4) profiles,
which is commonly accepted as being too overwhelming
for respondents to evaluate and formulate decisions from.
Thus, a fractional factorial design using a sample of at-
tribute levels from the complete factorial design was used
to reduce the profile number using Sawtooth Software
SSI web version 6.0. The method utilized by the software
is the orthogonal array most commonly used in conjoint
analysis, which develops highly fractional designs by
selecting profiles that balance the independent influences
of all the attribute effects [27,40].
Orthogonal array designs are known to be statistically
efficient [41] and allow researchers to collect data on a
large amount of profiles using a relatively small number
of profile scenarios, thus ensuring the effects of the at-
tributes on the respondent’s preferences can still be effec-
tively tested [30]. In total, Sawtooth Software generated 7
choice set versions of the survey, each version consisting
of 12 tasks, each task containing 3 different profiles. An
example of a task in a choice set is given in Table 2.
Surveys were randomly administered to Honolulu resi-
dents at various locations in the spring of 2011. An effort
was made to ensure all suburbs or districts within the city
were represented. Specifically, data was collected from
west Honolulu, east Honolulu, downtown and in the cen-
tral city center Waikiki at shopping centers and parks.
Shopping centers were chosen because 1) they often
Table 2. Example of a choice set.
Attributes Choice A Choice B Choice C
Type of Material Sugarcane Paper Corn
Microwaveable No No Yes
Water Resistant No Yes Yes
Locally Produced No Yes Yes
Price per Container $0.20 $0.40 $0.30
contain food courts where people may be ordering take-
out food, thus relating to the study, and 2) they are a cen-
tral place where people of various backgrounds tend to
gather naturally, thus enabling us to survey a demog-
raphically diverse sample of the city’s population. Parks
are also a common place that various individuals gather,
and were chosen in an attempt to broaden the study to
those who may not eat out often or frequent shopping
The sample consisted of 244 respondents, which was
determined to be sufficient for the number of attributes
and levels utilized in this study according to Johnson and
Orme’s [42] formula for sample size for CCE.
Socioeconomic demographics of the sample are pre-
sented and compared to the census data and the State of
Hawaii’s population estimate for Honolulu in Table 3,
which show that our sample is fairly representative of
Honolulu’s population. In general, gender matched well
with the census data. The survey respondents were
slightly younger, with 19% of our respondents in the 18 -
25 age group, and 45% in the 26 - 40 age group, com-
pared to the actual 10% and 21%, respectively, of Hono-
lulu’s population falling in these age groups. This dis-
crepancy is not much of a concern for our topic, since
younger age groups dine out more frequently [43] and are
therefore more likely to use takeout containers. The com-
parison also shows that the respondents were somewhat
more educated than Honolulu’s population, with 45%
holding an associate or bachelor’s degree, and 25% hold-
ing a graduate degree, compared to the 31.1% and 13.1%,
respectively, that make up Honolulu’s population. How-
ever, the U.S. census data for educational attainment is
only given for those in Honolulu’s population that are
above 25 years of age. This study also included the 18 -
25 age group, which may explain this discrepancy. Fur-
thermore, this issue has had legislation introduced locally
in the past, so the impact of the possibly skewed educa-
tion level may not be of much concern since the topic is
familiar to the general public.
The basic assumption of the Conjoint Choice Model,
which is used in this study, is that when respondents are
presented with different product profiles in the choice
sets, they will choose the product profile, either choice A,
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Table 3. Socio-demographic comparison of the survey respondents and Honolulu’s population.
Description Honolulu Population1 Survey Respondents
Gender Male 50.6 53.0
Female 49.4 47.0
Age2* 18 - 25 13.8 19.0
26 - 40 25.0 45.0
41 - 60 35.6 25.0
over 60 25.6 11.0
Educational Attainment** Some High School 5.3 1.0
High School 28.3 11.0
Some College 21.0 18.0
Associate or Bachelor’s Degree 30.0 45.0
Graduate Degree 10.4 25.0
*Percentage estimated by controlling for the exclusion of the under-18 age group to allow comparison to 100% of the sample; **Educational attainment for
Honolulu’s population is presented for the above 25 age group only.
B, or C in our case, that generates the highest utility. The
individual’s utility function can be presented as follows:
in in
where, in, utility of the individual n from the profile i
can be considered as a function of the attributes A. As-
suming that the utility function can be divided into two
parts, one deterministic observable part, , and
one random and unobservable part,
(1) can be rewritten as follows:
 
in inin
As previously discussed, the respondent was assumed
to choose the profile that gives them the highest utility,
so the respondent’s choice of profile i rather than profile
j can be written:
in jn
PiCP UUalljC 
where C is all the profiles in the choice set. Using equa-
tion (2), can be rewritten as:
in jn
in injnjn
 
, and therefore:
 .
It follows that equation (3) can be rewritten as:
 
jn ininjn
 
A basic assumption is that the random term ε follows
the Gumbel distribution [44]
exp exp
et t ,
where F is the function, e is the error term and t can be
any number. If Ain is a linear function of different attrib-
utes, Equation (4) can be specified as:
where, β is the parameter to be estimated and the Lni is
the levels of the attributes. The simple version of equa-
tion (5) showing only the basic relationship between the
respondent’s choice and the attributes can be stated as:
,,,,PfMMIWLPR (6)
where M is the type of material, MI is microwavable, W
is water resistant, L is locally produced, and PR is price
per container.
Latent Class Analysis (LCA) is a model-based prob-
abilistic clustering approach that considers the heteroge-
neity of respondents and allows them to be grouped into
separate classes based on their observable attributes of
choice [45]. Equation (7), provided by Magidson [45],
shows the probability of respondents in class t choosing
choice j:
expexp .
where the whole population is divided into T classes, and
t =1, 2,, T.
3. Results
Results for the first part of our survey regarding takeout
food container consumption and attitudes about EPS
takeout food containers showed that 99% of the respon-
dents surveyed eat out and use takeout food containers
regularly. 97% of the respondents surveyed would recy-
cle or compost their food container if provided with that
1U.S. Census Bureau, 2005-2009 American Community Survey 5-Yea
Estimates, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2010.
2State of Hawaii, Department of Business, Economic Development &
Tourism: 2009 Civilian Population Estimate, 2011.
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA1269
option. Significantly, 81% of survey respondents stated
that they are in support of a ban on EPS takeout food
containers in the city of Honolulu.
Latent Gold Choice TM, Version 4.0 software was
used to analyze the conjoint choice data. The first step in
Latent Class Analysis is to determine the number of
classes for the model. This is commonly done using Ba-
yesian Information Criterion (BIC) [45], where the mo-
del with the lowest BIC value is chosen as the best fit
model. In this case the 4-class model was chosen due to
its BIC value. The estimated parameters for the 4-class
model are shown in Table 4.
Class 1 has 37.71% of the survey respondents. This
group shows a significant positive preference toward pa-
per and sugarcane materials as opposed to corn for their
takeout containers. They also show significant prefe-
rences toward microwavable and water resistant contain-
ers. A lower price was also significantly preferred.
Class 2 has 29.39% of the respondents and the majo-
rity of parameters are statistically significant. Respon-
dents in class 2 show a significant positive preference
toward sugarcane as the type of material for alternative
takeout containers and a negative preference toward pa-
per. They also show a significant positive preference to-
ward the containers being microwavable, water resistant,
locally produced; and a negative preference toward price.
Demographics for respondents in class 2 revealed that
this class significantly represented a younger age group.
Class 3 has 21.85% of respondents. This class signifi-
cantly prefers microwavable, water resistant, locally pro-
duced takeout containers as well as a lower price. This
class shows no significant preference for container mate-
rials. Demographics for respondents in class 3 showed
that they have a higher education level.
Class 4, which has 11.06% of the survey respondents,
significantly prefers a water resistant takeout container
and a lower price.
All the respondents show negative preferences con-
cerning the price of takeout food containers, which is
consistent with economic theory. Water resistant con-
tainers are also preferred by all four classes, indicating
that all respondents consider water resistance as a basic
function of takeout food containers.
Microwavable, on the other hand, is significantly pre-
ferred by class 1, class 2 and class 3 (88.94% of total re-
spondents), indicating that a large proportion of the re-
spondents would want to microwave their takeout food
containers. Within this sub study population, respondents
in class 2 and class 3 (51.23% of respondents) show a
significant preference toward locally produced contain-
The type of material used to produce takeout food con-
tainers was statistically significant for classes 1 and 2,
both showing strong preferences toward sugarcane and
Next, the relative importance of each attribute is cal-
Table 4. Estimated parameters of the 4-class model.
Class 1 Class 2 Class 3 Class 4
Class Size 37.71% 29.39% 21.85% 11.06%
Corn 0.359*** 0.1143 0.158 0.0045
Paper 0.1206*** 0.356*** 0.0156 0.1913
Sugarcane 0.2385*** 0.4703*** 0.1425 0.1868
No 0.1067*** 0.2578*** 1.6067*** 0.1776
Yes 0.1067*** 0.2578*** 1.6067*** 0.1776
Water Resistant
No 0.2952*** 0.3763*** 0.6759*** 0.4561***
Yes 0.2952*** 0.3763*** 0.6759*** 0.4561***
Locally produced
No 0.0539 1.5773*** 0.4719*** 0.0239
Yes 0.0539 1.5773*** 0.4719*** 0.0239
Price per Container 1.9649*** 8.6078*** 8.3414*** 23.8403***
Age 0.2424 0.4427*** 0.148 0.3483
Education 0.0083 0.0516 0.308** 0.2481
Note: *** significant at 0.01 level, ** significant at 0.05 level.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA
culated to measure how important each attribute is to
each class [46] using the following formula:
100 i
where RIi is the relative importance for attribute i, and
URi is the range of utility change when attribute levels
Table 5 reports the relative importance of the attri-
butes within the four different latent classes. The most
important attribute varies for each class. For class 1 it is
the type of the material (28.47%), followed by water
resistant (28.13%) and price per container (28.09%).
Class 2 places the most importance on locally produced
containers (40.28%), followed by price per container
(32.97%). The takeout food container attribute most im-
portant to class 3 is microwaveable (38.66%), followed
by price per container (30.11%). Class 4 choose price per
container (80.86%) as the most important attribute.
Willingness to pay (WTP) was also calculated, which
shows the maximum amount respondents in each class
are willing to pay to switch from one attribute level of
the good to another. Using methods consistent with those
described in Orme [47], we determined WTP using the
following equation:
 
where, βm is the parameter estimate of price, V0 is the
initial utility, and V1 is the desired utility. Results showed
respondents in class 1, who consider type of material and
water resistant as the most important attributes, are will-
ing to pay $0.30 to switch from non-water resistant to
water resistant and $0.24 and $0.06 from corn to paper
and from corn to sugarcane takeout food containers, re-
spectively. Respondents in class 2 place locally produced
as the most important attribute, and they are willing to
pay $0.37 to switch from a non-locally produced product
to a locally produced product. Class 3 considers micro-
wavable as the most important attribute, and they are
willing to pay $0.39 per container to switch from a non-
microwavable container to a microwavable one. Re-
spondents in class 4 were primarily concerned with price,
thus their willingness to pay for a level switch is very
low. For example, class 4 respondents are willing to pay
only $0.04 for switching from non-microwavable to mi-
crowavable. A summary of the WTP for each class is
presented in Table 6.
4. Discussion
Significantly, our results show that a majority of respon-
dents (81%) support a local ban on EPS takeout food
containers in the city of Honolulu. These results suggest
Table 5. Estimated relative importance of attributes in per-
Class 1Class 2 Class 3Class 4
Type of Material 0.2847 0.1055 0.0362 0.0427
Microwaveable 0.1017 0.0658
0.3866 0.0402
Water Resistant 0.2813 0.0961 0.1626 0.1031
Locally produced 0.0514 0.4028 0.1135 0.0054
Price per Container0.2809 0.3297 0.3011 0.8086
Table 6. Willingness to pay for switching from one attribute
level to another.
Class 1 Class 2 Class 3Class 4
From Corn to Paper 0.2441
From Corn to Sugarcane 0.0600 0.0960
From Non-Microwavable
to Microwavable 0.1086 0.0599 0.3852
From Non-Water Resistant
to Water Resistant 0.3005 0.0874 0.1621 0.0383
From Non-Locally
Produced to Locally
0.3665 0.1131
that local residents may be ready and willing to pay for
alternative products that focus on long-term efforts to
increase sustainability and reduce pollution. This is fur-
ther substantiated by our results that showed nearly every
respondent (97%) would recycle or compost their food
container if provided with that option.
In general, respondents seem to prefer a takeout con-
tainer made with a sugarcane material (66.49%) that is
microwaveable (88.94%), water resistant (100%), locally
produced (51.23%) and price competitive, as their alter-
native. Furthermore, all classes had a very strong prefer-
ence for lower prices, which highlights the importance of
being price competitive in this industry.
Specifically, classes 1 and 2, which make up the majo-
rity of our respondents (66.49%), prefer a sugarcane-
based product. Currently there are several sugarcane
takeout food containers on the market that are accessible
in local restaurants within Honolulu. In fact, the fiber
bagasse, a byproduct of sugar production, is commonly
referred as the most suitable plant-based EPS substitute,
which has the least competitive use impact, is biode-
gradable and microwavable, and the production process
is known to be less harmful than those of the other op-
tions. Moreover, in the case of Hawaii, the ban of EPS
could present an economic opportunity due to the history
of sugarcane production in the state, with sugarcane be-
ing an important part of the agricultural sector during last
It is unclear if respondents are aware of these advan-
tages. However, class 2 may have made this connection,
opyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA1271
as they significantly prefer a locally produced container
with a sugarcane material and are willing to pay an addi-
tional $0.08 per container made from sugarcane, and an
additional $0.37 per container that is locally produced.
The use of paper as a substitute for EPS is disregarded
by some who point to a study reporting that the produc-
tion of EPS uses half as many raw materials, and much
less energy than the production of paper [48]. EPS pro-
duction has also been cited to release 35% fewer chemi-
cals into the environment than the production of paper
[49]. However, respondents were not given any informa-
tion about EPS or the advantages and disadvantages of
its alternatives prior to completing the survey and it is
possible that this information is not well known. In fact,
our results show that class 1, though they ultimately pre-
fer sugarcane takeout food containers, still prefer the use
of paper over the use of corn for the type of material at-
tribute. Surprisingly, none of our classes significantly
prefer the use of a corn material for their takeout food
container, though corn-based containers have been ob-
tainable on the market recently. The use of starch-based
materials, such as corn or potato, may be confronted due
to the competitive use of the material for food, with op-
ponents concerned over possible price increases of these
dietary staples.
As new cities and jurisdictions are faced with envi-
ronmental legislative proposals such as EPS product bans,
consumer choice information such as the data and results
provided in this study can assist policy makers in the
development of laws that reflect the environmental pre-
ferences of the public. Additionally, this information can
be used by the producers of takeout food containers
when considering substituting new materials to target the
market segments that consumers prefer and are willing to
pay for.
5. Conclusions
The negative health effects and environmental concerns
associated with the use of EPS are currently being widely
publicized on a global scale. While EPS bans continue to
be discussed and enacted globally, this study provides
evidence of support for a similar ban in the city of
Honolulu, with 81% of respondents in favor.
As consumers become more aware of their impact on
the environment, demand for more sustainable alterna-
tives to EPS single use items is likely to rise. Using CCE
and LCA, our results offer crucial market information on
the public’s preference for plant-based EPS food con-
tainer alternatives in the city of Honolulu. Furthermore,
our results show an additional willingness to pay for
more environmentally sustainable options among con-
sumers. This willingness to pay information suggests that
businesses would be able to offset any additional cost
effects of a local ban on EPS takeout food containers for
certain market segments.
Though the preferred food container attributes, for
example the type of material, may fluctuate across states
and countries, our results have global implications by
showing that consumers are generally concerned with the
increased use of EPS and are willing to pay for more
environmentally friendly materials in the case of takeout
food containers. Locally produced materials such as sug-
arcane and local manufacturing are important to the ma-
jority of the respondents. This could be reflective of the
current sentiment of local food and job security.
This study provides valuable information for policy
makers, farmers, manufacturers and natural resource ma-
nagers. Through education on the effects of EPS, an in-
creasing number of individuals will value the benefits of
more sustainable alternatives greater than the damage
costs of discarded EPS takeout food containers, and will
be willing to switch to more environmentally friendly
materials. Furthermore, this study helps to shed light on
how informed consumers are concerning EPS and its
alternatives, and can provide insight to policy makers on
where to increase consumer information and education.
Finally, making a switch to EPS alternatives could have
enormous effects on landfill capacity, could reduce oce-
anic debris, and improve air quality. Even a small de-
crease in the magnitude of EPS production and waste
could help to reduce the global carbon footprint and the
increasing rate of environmental degradation.
6. Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Pawlowski, M. N., Reed,
B., and Rosa, S., for their assistance with original con-
cept and questionnaire development, as well as their hard
work in aiding us with data collection. M.B. also thanks
Arita, S. and Jaspers, K. for their helpful comments and
[1] C. J. Moore, “Synthetic Polymers in the Marine Envi-
ronment: A Rapidly Increasing, Long-term Threat,” En-
vironmental Research, Vol. 108, No. 2, 2008, pp. 131-
[2] G. White, “The Case for Banning Styrofoam Foodservice
Ware in Hawaii,” 2008.
[3] J. G. B. Derraik, “The Pollution of the Marine Environ-
ment by Plastic Debris: A Review,” Marine Pollution
Bulletin, Vol. 44, No. 9, 2002, pp. 842-852.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA
[4] K. Comstock, D. Farrell, C. Godwin and Y. Xi, “From
Hydrocarbons to Carbohydrates: Food packaging of the
Future,” Southeast Asia Consul and Resource Co. Ltd.,
[5] EPA, “Municipal Solid Watse in the United States: 2009
Facts and Figures,” U. S. E. P. Agency, Office of Solid
Watse, Washington DC, 2010, p. 189.
[6] EPA, “Mid-Atlantic Municipal Solid Waste Recycling
Fast Facts,” 2010.
[7] M. Verespej, “Polystyrene Recycling Efforts Still Illu-
sive,” Waste and Recycling News, Vol. 14, 2009, p. 26.
[8] K. Betts, “Styrofoam: From Packaging to Picture Frames
and Beyond,” Environmental Science & Technology, Vol.
42, 2008, pp. 5041-5041. doi:10.1021/es087184i
[9] K. J. McDermid and T. L. McMullen, “Quantitative
Analysis of Small-Plastic Debris on Beaches in the Ha-
waiian Archipelago,” Marine pollution bulletin, Vol. 48,
No. 7-8, 2004, pp. 790-794.
[10] I. De La Fuente and J. Quan, “An Ordinance to Prohibit
the Use of Polystyrene Foam Disposable Food Service
Ware and Require the Use of Biodegradable or Com-
postable Disposable Food Service Ware by Food Venders
and City Facilities,” 12747 C.M.S., City of Oakland, CA,
USA, 2006.
[11] Z. Chen, “Finding Solutions to White Pollution,” China
Daily, 2006.
[12] S. M. Reck, “The Expanding Environmental Conscious-
ness of Local Government: Municipalities that have
Banned Styrofoam and the Legal Consequences,” Uni-
versity of Bridgeport Law Review, 2003, pp. 127-145.
[13] A. Kosky, “Styrofoam Ban Kicked to the Curb,” San
Francisco Examiner, 2009.
[14] US Census Bureau, “NAICS 722211: Limited Service
Restaurants,” 2007.
[15] P. Boylan, “Hawaii Sending More Waste to Landfill,”
Honolulu Advertiser, 2008.
[16] K. Dayton, “Garbage to Energy Plant for Big Island,”
Honolulu Advertiser, 2008.
[17] L. Moreno, “Bio-Good to Go,” Honolulu Advertiser,
[18] L. Arakawa, “State Plastic-Bag Ban Considered,” Hono-
lulu Advertiser, 2008.
[19] A. Ahmed, N. Ahmed, and A. Salman, “Critical Issues in
Packaged Food Business,” British Food Journal, Vol.
107, No. 10, 2005, pp. 760-780.
[20] T. Bech-Larsen, “Danish Consumers’ Attitudes to the
Functional and Environmental Characteristics of Food
Packaging,” Journal of Consumer Policy, Vol. 19, No. 3,
1996, pp. 339-363. doi:10.1007/BF00411413
[21] J. Ali, S. Kapoor, and U. Pradesh, “Consumers’ Percep-
tion on Fruits and Vegetables Packaging in India,” Pre-
sented at the Annual World Symposium of the Interna-
tional Food and Agribusiness Management Association,
Monterey, California, USA, 2008.
[22] C. Yue, C.R. Hall, B.K. Behe, B.L. Cambell, J.H. Dennis,
and R.G. Lopez, “Are Consumers Willing to Pay More
for Biodegradable Containers Than for Plastic Ones?
Evidence from Hypothetical Conjoint Analysis and Non-
hypothetical Experimental Auctions,” Journal of Agri-
cultural and Applied Economics, Vol. 42, No. 4, 2010, pp.
[23] Y. Li, et al., “Eco-Impact of Shopping Bags: Consumer
Attitude and Governmental Policies,” Journal of Sus-
tainable Development, Vol. 3, 2010, pp. 71-83.
[24] J. J. Louviere and G. Woodworth, “Design and Analysis
of Simulated Consumer Choice or Allocation Experi-
ments: An Approach Based on Aggregate Data,” Journal
of Marketing Research, Vol. 20, No. 4, 1983, pp. 350-367.
[25] L. Sheild, C. Gopalakrishnan, and C. Chan-Halbrendt,
“Aligning Stakeholders’ Preferences with Public Trust in
Managing In-stream Flow: The Case of Hawaii,” Interna-
tional Journal of Water Resources Development, Vol. 25,
No. 4, 2009, pp. 657-679.
[26] F. Carlsson, P. Frykblom, and C. Liljenstolpe, “Valuing
Wetland Attributes: An Application of Choice Experi-
ments,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 47, No. 1, 2003, pp.
95-103. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2002.09.003
[27] C. Chan-Halbrendt, D. Fang, and F. Yang, “Trade-offs
between Shopping Bags Made of Non-degradable Plas-
tics and Other Materials, Using Latent Class Analysis:
The Case of Tianjin, China,” International Food and Ag-
ribusiness Management Review, Vol. 12, 2009, pp. 179-
[28] J. Rokka and L. Uusitalo, “Preference for Green Packag-
ing in Consumer Product Choices—Do Consumers
Care?” International Journal of Consumer Studies, Vol.
32, 2008, pp. 516-525.
opyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Non-Plastic Food Containers in Honolulu, USA
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
[29] C. Chan-Halbrendt, F. Yang, L. Thomas and A. Pant,
“Analysis of Farm Household Preferences in the Man-
agement of Invasive Species: The Case of Miconia in
Hawaii,” International Food and Agribusiness Manage-
ment Review, Vol. 10, 2007, pp. 117-140.
[30] C. Chan-Halbrendt, T. Lin, F. Yang, and G. Sisior, “Ha-
waiian Residents’ Preferences for Miconia Control Pro-
gram Attributes Using Conjoint Choice Experiment and
Latent Class Analysis,” Environmental Management, Vol.
45, 2010, pp. 250-260. doi:10.1007/s00267-009-9415-4
[31] J. H. Zamora, “Styrofoam Food Packaging Banned in
Oakland,” San Francisco Chronicle, 2006.
[32] G. J. Nickels, “Nickels and Conlin Propose Green Fee on
Shopping Bags, Ban on Foam,” Official website for the
City of Seattle, 2008.
[33] M. Barnes, M. N. Pawlowski, M. N., B. Reed, S. Rosa,
and Q. Zhang, “Willingness to Pay for Styrofoam-Alter-
native Food Containers in Honolulu, Hawaii,” Unpub-
lished, 2011.
[34] G. Lucas, “Polystyrene Ban: Bill Would Put California
First,” Capitol Weekly, 2011.
[35] V. Sriram and A. M. Forman, “The Relative Importance
of Products’ Environmental Attributes: A Cross-Cultural
Comparison,” International Marketing Review, Vol. 10,
1993, pp. 51-71.
[36] Harvard Health Publications, “Microwaving Food in
Plastic: Dangerous or Not? “ 2006.
[37] Styrofobia, 2011.
[38] Green Choice, 2009.
[39] Jasa Eco, 2009.
[40] P. E. Green and Y. Wind, “New Way to Measure Con-
sumers’ Judgments,” Harvard Business Review, Vol. 53,
1975, pp. 107-117.
[41] J. J. Louviere, D. A. Hensher and J. D. Swait, “Stated
Choice Methods: Analysis and Applications,” Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, 2000.
[42] R. Johnson and B. Orme, “Getting the Most from CBC,”
Sawtooth Software Research Paper Series, 2003.
[43] P. Taylor, C. Funk, and P. Craighill, “Eating More, En-
joying Less,” A Social Trends Report, PEW Research
Center, 2006.
[44] D. McFadden, “Conditional Logic Analysis of Qualita-
tive Choice Behavior, “Institute of Urban & Regional
Development, University of California, 1972.
[45] J. Magidson and J. K. Vermunt, “Latent class models,” In:
D. Kaplan, Ed., The Sage Handbook of Quantitative
Methodology for the Social Sciences, Sage Publications
Inc., Thousand Oaks, 2004, pp. 175-198.
[46] C. Halbrendt, Q. Wang, C. Fraiz, and L. O’Dierno,
“Marketing Problems and Opportunities in Mid-Atlantic
Seafood Retailing,” American Journal of Agricultural
Economics, Vol. 77, 1995, pp. 1313-1318.
[47] B. Orme, “Assessing the Monetary Value of Attribute
Levels with Conjoint Analysis: Warnings and Sugges-
tions,” Research Paper Series, Sawtooth Software, Inc.,
Sequim, 2001.
[48] M. B. Hocking, “Paper Versus Polystyrene: A Complex
Choice,” Science, Vol. 251, 1991, pp. 504-505.
[49] Franklin Associates LTD., “Life Cycle Inventory of
Polystyrene Foam, Bleached Paperboard, and Corrugated
Paperboard Foodservice Products, “Eastern Research
Group, Inc., Report Prepared for The Polystyrene Pack-
aging Council: American Chemistry Council’s Non-Du-
rable Plastics Panel, 2006.