‘Biodegradable containers too costly’

A server preparing takeaway orders in brown paper boxes and bags at a cafe in Jalan Dhoby, Johor Baru. The use of biodegradable food containers was made compulsory in 2019. — Filepic

THE Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association (Perusim) is urging the authorities to monitor the retail price of biodegradable food containers which seems to be increasing.

Its secretary Hussein Ibrahim said unlike polystyrene food containers, there was a limited supply of biodegradable ones in the market.

He added that food operators had to fork out more to buy biodegradable packaging because of their limited supply.

“We had to switch to using biodegradable containers for takeaway when it was made mandatory in 2019, ” said Hussein, adding that he hoped the state government could consider giving food operators until the end of the year to finish their stock of polystyrene containers.

He suggested that the local authorities take over sourcing and distributing the biodegradable packaging to help bring prices down.

Hussein said apart from biodegradable food containers, association members used brown paper to pack briyani rice for takeaway.

“We find paper is more suitable for packing rice with meat as the biodegradable containers are quite small, ” he said.

Restaurant proprietor Rene Mohd Nasir also hopes Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) can give food operators until the end of the year to use up their stock of polystyrene containers.

He said many restaurants had closed for up to three months during the first movement control order from March 18 last year.

“We cannot simply dispose of the unused packaging, ” said Rene, adding that his eatery in Stulang Laut, Johor Baru did not offer delivery service as it was not economical then.

Rene said the restaurant had been using brown paper in recent years for takeaway to cater to locals working in Singapore as the authorities there had prohibited food packed in polystyrene from being brought into the republic.

Sundry shop proprietor Michael Khoo said he stopped selling polystyrene containers a few years ago when demand for biodegradable ones increased.

“Over the years, more people have become aware of the importance of switching to environmentally-friendly food containers, ” he said.

Khoo added that the only issue was the price, as it cost RM14.50 for 50 pieces, unlike the polystyrene ones, which were cheaper.

He said customers preferred biodegradable food containers as they were microwave-safe and could be used to reheat food.

Meanwhile, an MBJB spokes-person said the ruling prohibiting the use of polystyrene food containers at all food outlets within its jurisdiction was printed on business licences.

The spokesperson added that the move to educate food operators on plastic drinking straws started last year.

“Food operators should not serve cold drinks with plastic drinking straws and give them to customers only upon request, ” said the spokesperson.

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