No ban on styrofoam packaging, but hawkers discouraged from using it

Diners at the Bedok Interchange hawker centre. Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor yesterday said that the Government will encourage hawkers, as much as possible, not to use disposable ware, particularly for dini
Diners at the Bedok Interchange hawker centre. Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor yesterday said that the Government will encourage hawkers, as much as possible, not to use disposable ware, particularly for dining-in customers. She noted that the use of reusable crockery is more cost-effective than using styrofoam packaging.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Hawkers are being discouraged from using disposable plates, bowls and utensils made of polystyrene foam, better known as styrofoam, which are non-biodegradable and environmentally unfriendly.

But the Government will not impose a ban on them, taking into consideration other factors such as the cost of alternatives and inconvenience to hawkers and consumers, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor told Parliament yesterday.

Other types of disposable ware, such as plastic containers and coated paper boxes, cost about two to three times more than the clamshell polystyrene foam packaging, she added.

She was responding to a question from Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) on whether the National Environment Agency will consider imposing a ban on the use of styrofoam packaging at hawker centres in view of its detrimental effects on the environment.

Dr Khor noted that the use of reusable crockery is more cost-effective than using styrofoam packaging, even after taking into account the costs of manual collection and washing.

However, there may be manpower constraints.

The Government is working to discourage hawkers, through the hawker associations, from using disposable ware, Dr Khor said.

"We need to take into account the cost of alternative options, as well as manpower constraints for these hawkers and the inconvenience that may be caused," she said.

"As much as possible, we'll encourage them not to use disposable ware, particularly for dining in."

A number of cities worldwide, including Penang in Malaysia, as well as New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle in the United States, have implemented bans on polystyrene foam packaging.

Dr Khor pointed out that while polystyrene foam packaging may be of concern in some countries where waste is landfilled, it is incinerated safely in Singapore at waste-to-energy incineration plants, which are fitted with pollution control equipment.

Audrey Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline 'No ban on styrofoam packaging, but hawkers discouraged from using it'. Print Edition | Subscribe