Polystyrene foam containers harmful to environment

Mr Teo Kok Seah's call ("Bring back use of leaves for packing food"; last Sunday) is urgent, in view of the possible harm caused by polystyrene foam cups and plates used by food sellers.

In the 1950s, our hawkers used the green leaf from the Dillenia suffruticosa plant to pack carrot cake and rojak. The leaf absorbed some of the oil and helped reduce our daily intake of oil.

Our hor fun was usually packed in an opeh leaf - a fibrous sheet from the betel nut palm.

These plants are still found in abundance and the leaves contain no carcinogens.

Polystyrene foam cups contain styrene, which is suspected of being a carcinogen. Styrene can leach out of foam food containers and cups when the contents are hot.

Styrene also poses a risk to the environment and our planet.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 9 million kg of waste styrene is generated annually, with about 8 million kg winding up in the air and 770,000kg getting into

surface waters.

Polystyrene foam and other food containers are clogging landfills and turning up in the ocean, where sea birds and marine animals swallow them.

I hope the National Environment Agency will advise our hawkers to stop the use of polystyrene foam food containers as soon as possible.

Heng Cho Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2015, with the headline 'Polystyrene foam containers harmful to environment'. Print Edition | Subscribe