Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Ban Styrofoam

Published:Tuesday | March 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Several cities and towns in the United States of America have banned, or are poised to ban, the use of expanded and extruded polystyrene products, especially food containers, known by its trademark, Styrofoam. The most recent ban is by the neighbouring Caribbean territory of Guyana. How commendable!

What is Jamaica waiting for to take action? There is absolutely no shame in jumping on the bandwagon of positive change.

According to a Harvard University factsheet published in 2004, polystyrene is made from petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource; it is not biodegradable because it takes several hundred years to disintegrate, and contains the chemicals styrene and benzene, which are considered to be carcinogenic and neurotoxic. Recycling of this toxic material is not economically viable yet, and reusing it is just unhygienic. Polystyrene is also harmful to animals if ingested.

Because it is lightweight, numerous polystyrene food containers, such as those used for lunch boxes and soup cups in Jamaica, can be seen in gullies, drains and along the coast after being carelessly discarded.

Considering that the Office of the Prime Minister has responsibility for the environment portfolio, I am suggesting that Andrew Holness leads from the front by banning the use of polystyrene food containers at all government institutions such as offices of government agencies and schools, followed by an eventual ban on such imports. Incentives could be offered for locally producing and using suitable alternatives such as biomass products. A public awareness campaign could also be undertaken to sensitise the public of the dangers of using polystyrene food containers and the benefits of using alternatives.

We must do more than just talk about sustainable development because it is the new buzzphrase. We ought to take action that will actually lead to sustainable development.