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MAN decries indiscriminate bans, says good use of styro foam not harmful

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*Says it’s non-cancerous

*Denounces ban by NAFDAC

* Wants pamphlets inserted inside packs

By Saby Elemba, Owerri 

Piqued by doubts and insinuations in some quarters over the effects of styrofoam on humans, Prince Ubah Obasi, the chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Imo/Abia branch, who is the executive director of Aba-based Akachi Industries Limited (Geepee Group), has debunked fears that styrofoam was harmful.

He says polystyrene on its own is considered safe for human consumption when in a solid state. 

He, however, cautioned that heating could generate chemicals to leach from the foam and into the food; but the consumption of the contents of a melted foam container one time was unlikely to be harmful and injurious to human health. He said this is from researches conducted so far. 

In an exclusive interview, the MAN chairman, who dwelt extensively on the components and contents of styrofoam, use and cooking with styrofoam cups, as well as implications of heating styrofoam in microwave in respect of possible cancerous effects said that scientists had posited that the cancer risk posed by styrene is low due to small amounts in consumer products.

According to Obasi, studies conducted by independent scientific bodies or associations such as the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization Expert committee on food had concluded that when styrofoam containers are used appropriately, oral exposure to residual styrenemonomers does not result in any adverse health effects.

“The proper use of styrofoam containers is thus crucial in ensuring safety. Boiling hot or hot oily foods should be cooled slightly and excess oil from fried foods should drained before being placed in Styrofoam”, he stated. 

He queried the rational over hasty and reckless banning of items without proper investigations and which are still being used by Starbucks Coffee franchise all over the world. 

He stated that there are companies that had taken bank loans worth over N3Bn to invest in such items and that some of them have employed about 300 workers. He queried what would happen to those Nigerians if they were disengaged by their companies. 

“Some of my members took loans from the banks. You just woke up and banned it. Is this a banana republic?”, he queried. 

He noted that the implications of such a retrogressive policy would throw many workers into the nation’s already saturated labour market. 

He advised NAFDAC to insist that industrialists insert pamphlets inside the package or inscriptions detailing the usage by consumers like cigarettes rather than banning. 

Obasi insisted that foam packaging had always been a good option for the catering industries or firms to cut costs.

Against the background of carbon reduction and the plastic ban, Obasi observed that “biodegradable materials with controllable costs are becoming the new option for manufacturers to provide suitable cups or containers for the public catering market”.

Continuing, the MAN chief said that while PLA heat-resistant tableware would become more practical, foaming has become an effective approach to process PLA at low cost.

In his words, “The rise of E-PLA tableware begins to meet people’s need for a quick meal and dramatically stimulates the growth of the biodegradable plastic market”.

While PLA expanded bead is an Upgraded Alternative to EPS Beads, Obasi said that extruded PLA foam sheets and rolls improve the thermal management and impact strength of food packaging just as E-PLA sheets offer greater security to buffer packaging.

On the growing PLA market, Obasi said, “E-PLA material is a perfect option for companies looking for sustainable alternatives, which will reduce waste and environmental impact, and meet stringent performance standards at the same time. This market is gradually expanding in the global biodegradable field. Regarding the demand for biodegradable plastics across the globe, Europe ranks the first, accounting for 31%, while North America and China account for 28% and 20% respectively”.

He noted that Interfoam China is a professional exhibition for the whole foam industrial chain in Asia, and is an international event that cannot be missed by the professionals from foam industry all around the world. 

And that Interfoam China focuses on the latest production, technology & equipment, new techniques, new trend, and new application in foam industry, and spare no effort to provide a professional platform integrating technologies, trade, brand display, and academic exchanges for its upstream and downstream as well as vertical application industries, thus promoting industrial sustainability”.

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