Styrofoam ban hits income of vendors
FROM murtabak to nasi campur, there are plenty of mouth-watering foods on sale at the Ramadan bazaars across
Selangor this year.
But one familiar ingredient is missing - polystyrene (styrofoam) boxes to pack the food.
All 12 local councils in Selangor are taking part in a "Say No to Polystyrene" campaign, in line with the state government's intention of going polystyrene-free by 2017.
But vendors say alternative, biodegradable packaging is more expensive and has added to their financial burden.
Each biodegradable pack costs between 30 sen (10 Singapore cents) and 50sen.
Some find this costly and have sourced for cheaper alternatives, such as microwaveable plastic containers.
These options, however, are still more expensive than the common polystyrene packs, which can be as cheap as six sen per box.
Sahharudin Gandan, 60, who has been running a stall at the Ramadan bazaar in Shah Alam for seven years, said he had to raise the price of each packet of chicken rice from RM5.50 to RM6. This is also because prices of raw materials, including chilli, have gone up.
"I understand we need to change... Even though I could not afford the suggested packaging, I have managed to find an inexpensive alternative," he said. The recyclable packs he uses cost RM24 for 100 pieces.
In Petaling Jaya, the council had already banned the use of polystyrene packaging as part of the licence conditions for Ramadan traders since 2014.
But this year, the council is enforcing the rule and almost all food sellers have had to make the switch.
Yusnizar Mohd Nor, who has been selling nasi campur at the Kelana Jaya bazaar for five years, said switching to plastic containers has pushed up packaging costs by two-fold.
Shah Alam Farmers Market Association president Abdul
Latif Md Ali said sellers were asked to pay RM50 for biodegradable packages if they wanted to obtain the trading licence, although some cannot use the packaging because of the type of food they sell.
He sells murtabak and packs it in paper. Other items which the biodegradable packages are impractical for include drinks and roti john.
"Yet, we still have to pay RM50. It was part of the terms and conditions if we wanted to get a licence," he said.
A tepung pelita seller, who wished to be known only as Mak Cik Ida, said she used to break the polystyrene box into two pieces to serve her dish before placing it into a plastic bag.
She can no longer do so with the environmentally friendly packaging.
In Subang Jaya, however, vendors have adapted well, citing the reasonable price and regular supply of such packaging as important factors.
Nur Ainnus Anis, 21, who sells kuih, said a 50 sen discount is given to customers who bring their container, and the response has been good.
ASIA NEWS NETWORK