Wisynco eyes biodegrad­able sty­ro­foam amid Se­nate push­back

Jamaica Gleaner - - SOMETHING EXTRA - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

WISYNCO, THE sole maker of sty­ro­foam in Ja­maica, has said that by the end of this year it will be us­ing biodegrad­able ad­di­tives that will make the prod­uct more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, not­ing that cus­tomers should ex­pect a slight in­crease in prices.

Wil­liam Mah­food, the group’s chair­man, dis­closed the de­vel­op­ment to The Gleaner on Monday, three days after the Se­nate ap­proved a mo­tion propos­ing a ban on plas­tic bags and sty­ro­foam.

It is es­ti­mated that it takes up to 500 years for sty­ro­foam to biode­grade, and about 50 per cent of non-biodegrad­able waste in Ja­maica is made up of sty­ro­foam – 70 per cent of which is made here – and plas­tic bags.

“The chem­i­cal ad­di­tive will fa­cil­i­tate the prod­uct break­ing down into com­postable ma­te­ri­als, ba­si­cally into dirt. It is some­thing that we’ve been do­ing a lot of re­search on,” Mah­food said

ECM BioFilms, based in the United States, will be pro­vid­ing the MasterBatch Pel­lets, which it said will biode­grade plas­tics, al­though it said it could not “guar­an­tee” how long the process would take.

Mah­food said us­ing the ad­di­tives is the most prac­ti­cal means now as oth­ers are ex­pen­sive.

“It would be very dif­fi­cult for us to im­ple­ment a full con­ver­sion to a plant-based ma­te­rial be­cause it would drive up the cost of the pack­age to those small shop­keep­ers and lunch and food prepa­ra­tion places tremen­dously. I know peo­ple have tried them in the past, but they can­not get ac­cep­tance at the grass-roots level be­cause of the cost.”

PRICE IN­CREASE

None­the­less, con­sumers of Wisynco prod­ucts are to face a slight in­crease in sty­ro­foam pack­ages that range in prices from $3 to $10 per unit.

“There will be a nom­i­nal in­crease in the cost of the prod­ucts to con­sumers – po­ten­tially less than five per cent. We’re very, very fo­cused on the en­vi­ron­ment and we realise that we may be one of the larger man­u­fac­tur­ers of plas­tic ma­te­ri­als, not only sty­ro­foam, and we have been very fo­cused on try­ing to find ways to min­imise the im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Mean­while, Mah­food said the more than 200 work­ers em­ployed in its sty­ro­foam fac­tory have ex­pressed con­cerns over their job se­cu­rity in light of the dis­cus­sions to ban plas­tics and sty­ro­foam.

“We have said to them, it’s not some­thing to be con­cerned about at this point. We’re go­ing to im­ple­ment ev­ery mea­sure [to en­sure] that we are in com­pli­ance with what­ever the law re­quires, but we want to en­sure the se­cu­rity of those 200 jobs,” Mah­food told The Gleaner.

Fast-food chain Is­land Grill has switched to biodegrad­able bags and food con­tain­ers, in spite of neg­a­tive re­ac­tions from some cus­tomers.

“We have moved from plas­tic to en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly boxes and we have had a lot of push­back from some of our cus­tomers who like the plas­tic. I will ad­mit, it (plas­tic) is more cus­tomer­friendly, but we take it (the change) very se­ri­ously,” Thalia Lyn, the chain’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, told The Gleaner.

Lyn said she could not im­me­di­ately pro­vide the mon­e­tary cost of the switch, but noted that it has been “more ex­pen­sive”.

MAH­FOOD

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