JOHOR BARU: The use of polystyrene food containers is still a common sight at eateries and roadside stalls here, with many switching back to the old packaging instead of biodegradable containers.
The use of biodegradable food containers was enforced by the Johor government in 2018 to eliminate the use of polystyrene food packaging.
Checks by StarMetro in populous areas such as Taman Johor Jaya, Taman Perling, Taman Sentosa and downtown Johor Baru found that many restaurants as well as hawkers and durian stalls were still using polystyrene containers for takeaways.
A hawker, who only wanted to be known as Nor, was among those who has reverted to using polystyrene food boxes to serve mixed rice at her stall in Taman Sri Tebrau since early this year.
She said almost all the hawkers at the food court where she operates have also been using polystyrene boxes as it was more cost-effective.
“With Covid-19 pandemic standard operating procedures to follow such as providing hand sanitiser and wearing face masks, I want to cut as much cost as I can as my business has also been affected by the movement control order (MCO).
“I do worry about getting into trouble with the authorities if they conduct checks but I am not the only one here using it, ” said Nor.
Tuition teacher Ngoi Swee Yi, 27, said most eateries that she frequented in the Setia Indah area were using biodegradable food boxes for takeaways but there were still a handful of them using polystyrene boxes.
“I usually try to avoid shops still using non-biodegradable food packaging because I feel that they are not being environmentally-friendly.
“Since the MCO, I started bringing along my tiffin carrier for takeaways and I will continue doing this because it is also more hygienic and less harmful to the environment and my health, ” she added.
Self-employed Ali Yunus, 31, said the authorities should look into the matter seriously as it concerned the state of the environment and the well-being of future generations.
“With so much attention now focused on Covid-19 prevention measures, traders will take advantage of the situation to flout the no-polystyrene regulation if no proper enforcement is carried out.
“The state government should also run more effective awareness campaigns to educate businesses and the public so that they will take steps to better care for the environment, ” Ali said.
Echoing similar sentiments, Edward Ng, 29, who owns two cafes in downtown Johor Baru, said the lack of enforcement and publicity on the matter could have caused a lapse in the implementation of the ruling.
“Maybe if the authorities publicised the consequences and number of compounds issued to those using polystyrene packaging, food operators will adhere to the regulation.
“Being in the food industry, I am also quite curious about the consequences, ” he said, adding that he never used polystyrene at either of his cafes and would always use brown paper bags and boxes to pack his customers’ takeaway orders.
Meanwhile, Johor health and environment committee chairman R. Vidyananthan said eateries risk losing their business licence if caught using polystyrene packaging.
“Local councils have included a no-polystyrene clause for business licences and have the authority to revoke the licence of businesses found flouting the regulation.
“From what I understand, enforcement started in July to create awareness on the ruling and the Department of Environment will be working with the local councils to conduct checks as well, ” he said.
Vidyanathan said the public with information about premises or businesses still using polystyrene could channel them to the local council for action to be taken.