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New food containers biting into pockets of fast food lovers

New food containers  biting into pockets  of fast food lovers

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by Chanolde Monroe

Government’s announced ban of the use of styrofoam containers from January 1 next year is already bearing fruit. One distributor has confirmed that their sales have already started to show a marked decline.

In fact, that distributor revealed that they even discontinued importing the products ahead of the May 1, 2017 stop date and turned instead to the biodegradable variety.

But the move to clean up the environment and protect the health of Vincentians is also biting into the pockets of many consumers – 50 biodegradable food containers, for both half and full portions, cost $50, revealed one distributor. By contrast, under the old regime, food retailers only paid $48 for 200 half-portion containers and $65 for a similar number for full portions.

Part owner of Melting Pot Restaurant Marcia Clarke told SEARCHLIGHT that since they made the switch to biodegradable food boxes, they have had to increase the price of their food.

“The prices went up,” she declared.

Clarke pointed out that they had to raise their half portion $10 main menu items to $12 and their $16 full portions to $18.

However, she said she has not reduced the portion sizes, since portioning is very important to her and fortunately, there has been no fall off in customer numbers.

She explained that at  first the switch was difficult, especially affording the biodegradable food boxes.

“At first, I was actually losing more on the container because they had the VAT on there, so I had to be paying that VAT until now,” Clarke explained.

However, she stated that she is in full support of using biodegradable food containers.

“I have customers that had come here just because we did not serve out of styrofoam.”

Another restaurant owner, Leslie Jack, the proprietor of Lola’s Restaurant, told SEARCHLIGHT that from inception, they used biodegradable craft boxes.

He indicated that these boxes cost about the same as the styrofoam or plastic food containers.

“To be honest, it’s our brand,” Jack said. “The brand that we had, it’s like a craft brand …, so the craft was the easiest option at first. Added to that, it was biodegradable and … in terms of efficiency in putting it together, it really didn’t take a lot of time….”

Lance Oliver, operator of Chill Spot Restaurant, told SEARCHLIGHT they have switched partially from styrofoam to biodegradable food boxes.

But he added: “The only thing with it … [is that] the prices in some cases almost double.”

He said that when they eventually have to eliminate styrofoam boxes, the situation could become “ticklish” with pricing.

“A lot of times when you get price increase you try to absorb it because you don’t wanna lose your market, because if you raise your prices … your clientele drops off. It’s something to think about…,” Oliver explained.

Camille Crichton, one of the proprietors of the High Flyers Restaurant and Bar at the Argyle International Airport, confirmed that they have already purchased the biodegradable food containers and have been using the last of their styrofoam stock.

She pointed out that some of the biodegradable containers are already being used with some meals, and that they had taken a decision to absorb the additional cost, not including the Value Added Tax.

SEARCHLIGHT also spoke to environmental officer at the Sustainable Development Unit Tyshana Thomas, who explained that the chemical polystyrene which is found in styrofoam products could be cancerous.

The biodegradable boxes, on the other hand, are less harmful to humans.

Additionally, Thomas pointed out that when styrofoam enters the water and breaks down, marine animals can consume it.

“As it moves up along the food chain, when we eat it, it can also be cancerous,” she explained.

Okolo John-Patrick in the Ministry of Trade explained that the biodegradable containers became exempt from VAT on the May 1 when the import ban on styrofoam came into effect.  

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