JASTRE: Say goodbye to styrofoam containers

National 3 minutes, 9 seconds


THE government is targeting food vendors and night markets to reduce the use of styrofoam for food packaging, said an official from the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRE).

Due to environment and health concerns, Martinah Hj Tamit said JASTRE is working with the Municipal Department to cut styrofoam use.

In an interview, she said the Municipal Department has released public information about the dangers of using styrofoam, and JASTRE is seeking continuous assistance to reduce waste, particularly plastic and styrofoam.

Martinah, who is head of JASTRE’s Environmental Planning and Management Division, called on businesses to use alternative food packaging as styrofoam contains toxic substances.

She said because styrofoam is cheap and easily available, it is being illegally dumped everywhere and seen at most disposal sites.

“Almost all hawkers at night markets here use styrofoam as their means of packaging the food they sell, while a few restaurants practise the same thing,” she added.

Styrofoam is the trade name for polystyrene, which is made with petroleum – a non-sustainable resource.

A US Environmental Protection Agency report on solid waste named polystyrene manufacturing process as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste.

Styrofoam is also non-biodegradable, taking up space in landfills and at least 500 years to decompose.

According to the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on cancer, long-term exposure to small quantities of styrene is also suspected of causing cancer and other health risks.

Martinah said since styrofoam has a lightweight structure, a great deal of styrofoam has accumulated along coasts and waterways and is considered the main component of marine debris.

The department head hoped the public would think about their health before using styrofoam containers.

She said: “Try to practise bringing your own containers when buying food. If we Bruneians do not care about our environment, who else will? Our environment is our future.”

Last year, JASTRE launched an initiative with the Ministry of Education’s Science, Technology and Environment Partnership (STEP) Centre to phase out the use of styrofoam containers at schools.

These schools are Sayyidina Hassan Secondary School, Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Science College, Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College and Katok Sixth Form Centre.

Meanwhile, NGOs have also advocated using eco-friendly food packaging to replace styrofoam.

Khairunnisa Ash’ari, community engagement director at Green Brunei, said is concerned with the use of styrofoam here as it is one of the main causes of pollution along Brunei coastlines.

“I believe we should all discourage the use of styrofoam containers. They are one of the biggest polluters and are very difficult to clean at beaches,” she said.

She commended some restaurants who have taken the initiative to use reusable containers to pack food, as well as some customers who bring their own containers when buying food.

President of Beach Bunch Rizan Latif said the government needs to continuously educate the public on the impact of using styrofoam containers.

This means telling them its effects on their health and the environment, he said.

“It is important to educate the public properly by telling them the reasons why they are carrying out initiatives to reduce the use of styrofoam because people need to know,” he added.

Rizan said during their beach cleaning activities, styrofoam containers strewn across the beach are not only an eyesore, but the environment and health effects are serious.

The main concern is that when they start deteriorating into the sand, they break down into small particles called microplastics, which are dangerous to the eco-system.

“When they return into the ecosystem, the microplastics then go into the food cycle and ultimately causes danger to the health of humans,” he added.

Rizan said there has been no research yet on the impact of micro-plastics and how it affects humans in Brunei.

The Brunei Times