My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Why Guyana banning Styrofoam and How Jamaican Bee farmers can benefit

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Why Guyana banning Styrofoam and How Jamaican Bee farmers can benefit

“It is hoped that this initiative will see a significant reduction in the effects of polystyrene foam products on solid waste management in Guyana and its negative impact on the environment, while leading to the further development of new enterprises in the alternatives sector”

Government of Guyana in a statement October 2015 on the importation of Styrofoam

Guyana has finally decided to take action against imported Styrofoam.

As of Friday April 1st 2016, Guyana will no longer import extruded polystyrene foam aka Styrofoam, effectively a ban on the plastic as noted in “Guyana Bans Styrofoam Imports”, published Saturday March 12, 2016, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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The Environmental Protection Agency is to carry out this ban, which had originally suggested back in October 2015 and had been slated to begin on Friday January 1st 2016 as noted in the article “Guyana to ban Styrofoam products as of January 1”, published Sunday, October 18, 2015, The Jamaica Observer

So why is Guyana banning extruded polystyrene foam more commonly known by its brand name Styrofoam?

Guyana bans Styrofoam - Plastic pollution that as bad as microbeads

Styrofoam pollution has been a major problem in Guyana. Mainly used by the Food Industry to serve hot steaming lunches, it accounts for 2% to 5% of their solid waste in Guyana.

However, due to its resilience within the environment, it’s costing the government millions of dollars to clean, to quote the Ministry of the Presidency: “The improper disposal of the single use item has been, and remains a threat to human health and the wider environment, incurring clean up and disposal costs amounting to millions of dollars, a cost borne by the taxpaying public”.
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Styrofoam takes more than 500 years to biodegrade and because it floats, easily clogs gutters and drains, causing flooding in the city of Demerara. As it breaks down, it forms smaller particles that eventually reach the rivers and then the sea.

Once there, the effect on the aquatic ecosystems is devastating. It has the same effect a microbeads in detergents and facial soaps, absorbing chemicals from the water as explained in my blog article entitled “How US microbeads ban by 2017 means NEPA ban coming to protect Coral Reefs”. 

The Styrofoam then ends up being eaten by fish, manatee, dolphins as well as sharks, choking them to death. We then catch some of these sea creatures and unknowingly ingest Styrofoam.

The Styrofoam is also a danger to fisher folk, as they routinely catch Styrofoam along with plastic bottles and other junk that came from the gutters and storm drains of Demerara.

Economic impact of the Styrofoam ban - Recycled Wax Cardboard boxes and Shredded Newspaper can help

However, the ban will have an economic impact, as the Food Industry needs a replacement for the cheap plastic container. To this end the Ministry of Finance is considering tax incentives for importers who are interested in bringing in alternatives.

Folks, I see an opportunity for Jamaicans already.

The best alternative, really, is to introduce waxed cardboard boxes, using beeswax to seal the cardboard as explained in my MICO Wars Blog article entitled “How to make your Canvas shoes Waterproof”.

These cardboard boxes can be made from recycled Cardboard, something that Jamaican company Nationwide Waste Services Ltd already does as noted in my blog article entitled How Nationwide Waste Services Ltd makes money from Recycling Cardboard and Bauxite Topsoil”. 

Styrofoam is also used for packaging as well; for that shredded old newspaper is an alternative form of packaging which is just as effective and has the added bonus of keeping the item dry once treated with ac light coating of beeswax as explained in my MICO Wars Blog article entitled “Howto make your Canvas shoes Waterproof”. 

All this benefits Jamaica Bee farmers, who have been looking for a mass market for beeswax as the Jamaica Honeybee Industry struggles to survive the current outbreak of AFB (American foulbrood) (Paenibacillus larvae ssp. larvae) in the US of A as noted in my blog article entitled “Jamaican Honeybees and American FoulBrood Disease - How the Ministry of Agriculture ban on Imported Honey protects local Agriculture Industry”. 

Jamaica can follow Guyana and band Styrofoam – Mushroom and Worms to biodegrade plastics

Jamaica can also follow suit with Guyana and ban Styrofoam as pointed out by consultant on culture and development, Carolyn Cooper in her article “Time To Ban Styrofoam Containers”, Published Sunday January 31, 2016, The Jamaica Gleaner .

As for the excess Plastic, there is always the mealworm, which  Researchers at Stanford University and Beihang University have discovered can safely eat and biodegrade most plastics, including Styrofoam as shown below.

Not to mention the use of Schizophyllum commune and Pleurotus ostreatus to eat plastic as detailed in my blog article entitled “Katharina Unger's Fungi Mutarium Mushroom Grower - How Plastic Munching Mushrooms can be a solution to Plastics in Jamaica”.

All these solution would help to remove and biodegrade Styrofoam already in the environment, which would mean collecting the plastic from out of drains being the only hurdle to overcome. And while we're at it, ban the use of products that contain microbeads as well, as they are an environmental menace to the creatures of the sea and eventual humans.

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