It is common knowledge that popping a styrofoam container containing your favorite food into your microwave, and then consuming that hot food exposes the body to cancer and by extension possible death. Yet these white containers are popular storage for take-away orders here in the Territory and concerned residents are on a mission to ban styrofoam use in the British Virgin Islands.
The push to make the BVI styrofoam-free is being wielded via an online petition that will be submitted to Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith once it has garnered sufficient signatures.
By 20 June, when this article was written at least 100 persons signed the petition that was drafted with the hope of persuading Premier Smith to propel the BVI into the circle of numerous countries around the world by banning the use of styrofoam also known as polystyrene in the Territory.
The petition was launched five days ago, and it is being spearheaded by Cindy Rosan-Jones and other concerned citizens of the Territory.
When contacted by The Island Sun newspaper Mrs. Rosan-Jones explained that ridding the Territory of styrofoam is a necessary move in the direction of environmental preservation as well as the health of the citizens and residents.
“The petition to ban styrofoam in the BVI was started by myself and a colleague and is supported by other groups within the community. It is part of a full plan which will see recycling legislation implemented in the British Virgin Islands,” Mrs. Rosan-Jones explained.
The common use of styrofoam in the Territory is also listed as a common form of litter and from an aesthetic point of view the ban was stated as important: “The BVI is a beautiful place, but we however, have a garbage problem and banning some of these products totally and ensuring recycling will certainly turn the problem around. Of course, this will not happen overnight but the plan is to protect the pristine image (land & sea) of the BVI. The BVI environment is everybody’s business really and we can show how much we really love the BVI by making this first step successful,” Mrs. Rosan-Jones added.
The petition which can be found on change.org is accompanied by a letter to the Premier dated 8 June. The letter highlights Government’s commitment to the environmental and public health of its citizens and points out that over the years, styrofoam has proliferated itself into the Territory as an acceptable receptacle for food and beverage.
“We now know that by using containers made of Styrofoam, harmful chemicals leak into our foods and beverages and also seep into the ground and air when being disposed of. Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and appears to last forever… This, combined with the fact that styrofoam floats, means that large amounts of polystyrene have accumulated along coastlines and waterways around the world. It is considered a main component of marine debris. Styrofoam is composed of benzene and styrene, both of which are known human carcinogens,” the letter added.
The health effects of styrofoam products were particularly stressed in the letter to the Premier: “styrofoam is as hazardous to the health of BVI citizens as it is as hazardous to our environment and we urge you to act upon the request of all of the citizens and residents of the territory that have put their names to this letter and petition, to ban all STYROFOAM products from the British Virgin Islands,” the letter mentioned.
In a piece that was published in the Journal of Environmental Sciences it was noted that polystyrene is a health and safety concern because of its propensity to build-up in human tissue. For this reason, it was noted that using styrofoam containers for hot food and drinks is especially an issue because it may cause harmful toxins to be absorbed into our bloodstream and tissues of our bodies.
More than 100 countries and cities around the world have moved to ban styrofoam use. In the Caribbean region countries such as Dominica, and Guyana have also banned styrofoam; while countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda have also indicated plans to also ban the use of Styrofoam.