Sun | May 28, 2017

Wisynco launches biodegradable styrofoam

Published:Friday | February 17, 2017 | 2:00 AM
William Mahfood, chairman of Wisynco Group.

Chairman of Wisynco Group William Mahfood expects roughly a five per cent increase in production cost for styrofoam food containers manufactured by the company, with the addition of a biodegradable substance aimed at creating a more environmentally friendly product.

On Wednesday, the company launched its eco-foam food containers, which will be made with a chemical additive called masterbatch pellets, made by American company ECM BioFilms.

Now, instead of sitting in landfills for years, Wisynco's styrofoam containers, which are distributed under the Sweet brand, will start biodegrading in nine months to five years, a move lauded by environmentalists and the Government.

While this will add to the company's overall costs, consumers will not have to pay increased price "at this time", Mahfood told the Financial Gleaner.

"It is slightly more expensive, but we are not going to pass on the increase to consumers," he said.

Governmental pressure

Wisynco's plan to absorb the costs runs counter to initial comments by Mahfood, who last November announced his company would begin making the biodegradable containers amid governmental pressure arising from continued concerns over solid waste management.

Wisynco is the sole maker of styrofoam food containers in Jamaica.

It is estimated that it takes up to 500 years for styrofoam to biodegrade, and that about 50 per cent of non-biodegradable waste in Jamaica is made up of styrofoam - 70 per cent of which is made here - and plastic bags.

Pressed on why the company did not opt for a completely natural product, Mahfood said that option would have priced the product out of the market.

"That would be a significant cost. It would be two to three times the price of overall production," he said.

Government Senator Matthew Samuda last year tabled a bill in Parliament calling for a ban on the importation and use of styrofoam and single-use plastic bags.

While ECM BioFilms has said it cannot guarantee how long the biodegrading process will take, the move by Wisynco is widely viewed as a step in the right direction.

Fast-food chain Island Grill scrapped its plastic food containers for recycled paperboard, biodegradable ones in 2015.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com