Traders: Going green may cost more

Takeaway food is usually packed in plastic and polystyrene sold by hawkers. — filepics

THE DECISION announced by the Perak government to ban polystyrene containers and plastic bags from June next year has mostly been well-received by food sellers.

But, there are still concerns of price hikes in eateries as many concur that using biodegradable containers will cost more.

Those interviewed by MetroPerak are hoping that the state will provide a specific guideline on the suitable items that can be used as an alternative and if possible, reduce the prices of biodegradable containers.

Zainal Abidin, 30, manager of a restaurant that currently uses polystyrene containers for customers to take away food, said biodegradable containers are 50% more expensive to buy even in bulk.

“Everything is getting more and more expensive, and if we are to use biodegradable containers from now on, we are afraid we won’t be able to cope with our expenses.

“We might have to pass the buck to customers, who will no doubt be unhappy about the increase of food prices,” he told MetroPerak.

Stressing that he accepts the government’s move towards a polystyrene and plastic-free state, Zainal said he still hopes the prices of biodegradable food containers will be revised.

Plastic bags will be banned throughout the state of Perak in June next year.
Plastic bags will be banned throughout the state of Perak in June next year.

Similarly, restaurant co-owner B. Mahesvary, 45, said while she os all for food businesses becoming more environmentally friendly, her only concern is the kind of containers that can be used as a replacement.

“The only other option I can see for now is using brown paper to wrap rice and dishes together.

“But if we are to use biodegradable containers, these containers cost more than polystyrene. I’m sure it’s going to be quite rough for us when the ban is first put into effect.

“I hope the government can at least revise the prices and brief food sellers like us on what we can use instead after the ban that won’t cost us so much,” she said.

An economy rice seller who wished to be known only as Lim, 65, also urged the government to provide proper guidelines on the ban while it is still early so he can assess the situation before making the necessary changes.

“If the government wants to ban these items, then we’ll just have to stop using them and change to other kinds of containers. We have no choice.

“And if the biodegradable ones are expensive, I guess there will have to be extra charges when customers buy from us.

“The reason we are using polystyrene containers is because they are convenient and cheap,” he said.

Meanwhile, bean sprouts and chicken seller Cheng Saw Onn has been using reusable plastic containers for customers to take away food for five years now.

He said he is already well aware that polystyrene containers are harmful to the environment and decided to stop using them.

“I’m not sure if the plastic container that come with proper covers I use now are acceptable. If they aren’t, I think it’s going to be very troublesome for our customers if they want to take away food but they forget to bring their own containers.

“It’s impossible for us to start selling tiffin carriers as a side business just because of this,” he said.

If the plastic containers he is using now will still be banned, Cheng said he hopes the government can tell them specifically what can be used soon enough so he will not have to keep guessing.

Bakery manager Tan Chun Aun, 22, said the ban on plastic bags should not be much of a problem in the bakery he works for as it commissioned a manufacturer to produce recyclable bags a while back.

“We do provide recyclable bags to our customers every now and then when they ask for them.

“But if the ban starts next year, we might have to decide first on the number of recyclable bags we have to order every day because it could cost us a lot more,” he said.

As Tan’s bakery is situated in the heart of Ipoh old town, he said on a good day, they use up around 1,000 pieces of plastic bags.

“So far, we don’t charge extra for those who wish to take our recyclable bags. But we don’t know if there might be a possibility for extra charges when the ban is implemented,” he said.

However, things are not the same for salted chicken seller who wished to be known only as Fiona, 35.

For someone whose business relies heavily on plastic bags, she said she finds it hard to accept the ban as a good idea because tourists are the ones who buy the most from her.

“I think if you’re going out with the main intention to do grocery shopping, then you’ll probably remember to bring out your recyclable bags.

“But for tourists, they visit all kinds of places, and when they wish to drop by my store to buy salted chicken, I don’t think they’d remember to bring recyclable bags.

“How are they going to bring back so many boxes of salted chicken without plastic bags then? And when they forget, surely they’d think twice about buying,” she said, adding that she is worried that her business will be affected after the ban is put in place.

Fiona, who has been selling salted chicken for the last 12 years, said plastic bags have always been used for a long time now.

“It feels weird to suddenly issue a ban on them now,” she said.

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Environment , Perak , plastic ban


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