Malaysia: Johor to study effects of banning polystyrene containers

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 18 Nov 15;

JOHOR BARU: The state government will carry out an in-depth study before banning the use of polystyrene containers, which have been blamed for clogging up drains and rivers and even becoming mosquito-breeding grounds.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the matter would be brought up during the Johor Green Technology Council meeting early next year.

He said this was a delicate issue as the state authorities and agencies needed to address several issues before implementing the ban.

“The use of polystyrene containers will be stopped once we iron out matters over its implementation,” Ayub said in an interview here yesterday.

Several local councils in Selangor and the Malacca government had earlier this year banned the use of polystyrene containers for food.

While banning such containers would be good for the environment, Ayub said at the same time, the authorities needed to look into other factors.

The main issue now, he said, was that there were not many manufacturers in the country producing biodegradable containers from plant-based materials such as oil palm, tapioca, corn and sugarcane.

“Cost is the problem as food operators will have to fork out extra money if they were to switch to biodegradable containers,” he said.

Any decision, said Ayub, would have to be a win-win situation for both operators and customers, adding that the price of takeaways should not increase.

For instance, customers might not be happy if they were charged an extra 50 sen for taking away food in biodegradable containers.

“It is still a long way to go before our society can accept biodegradable containers but we have to start somewhere.

“Right now, we want to encourage food operators to gradually switch to biodegradable containers.

“Maybe we can start by encouraging customers to bring their own tiffin carriers or containers for takeaways.

“Food operators should charge less for customers who bring their own containers,” he said.

Polystyrene, which does not break down naturally, can remain an environmental hazard for hundreds of years, clogging up drains and rivers.

Those that collect water also end up becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

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