No More Styrofoam Plates. But Then What?
Lately we have been hearing a lot about going green especially now that the government plans to eliminate the use of Styrofoam containers. It is a big deal for many businesses - mostly eateries - that have relied on the cheap styrofoam for decades. Many of them are hesitant and unsure of how to move forward.
But, there are a few places in the city that have already made the switch and are reaping the benefits. Sahar Vasquez found out how going green can save money, and a whole lot more.
Many Belizean Companies are jumping on the Eco-Friendly bandwagon and going green by replacing toxic styrofoam and plastic with healthy biodegradable materials. It is something that NGOs have been promoting for decades but now that it may become mandatory businesses are taking it seriously. One place that hasn’t jumped on the Band Wagon is the Radisson. It’s not that they disagree with the earth saving idea, they are, in fact, leading the bandwagon.
The hotel has been green for about ten years. General Manager Jim Scott started the movement when he first arrived and from there it has flourished from biodegradable cups and plates to a big recycling station. The hotel recycles everything from your coffee grounds to the soap used by guests.
Pat Lamb - Director of Sales/Radisson
"What we have been doing over the years is everything coming out of the rooms we sort through them and we see what we can recycle from the rooms soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotion. All of those things are sanitized. The soaps are bagged off a recycle logo goes on them and then we donate them to schools and different organizations that take care of seniors and people who are in need. The paper we do trays with paper. We sell the coffee grounds that come from our brewed coffee. Being a hotel and additionally, with Le Petite we have a huge amount of coffee grounds. It is very good for composting. If you are dealing with soil. We sell those as well. All the bottles you can think of wine bottles, glass bottles, pepper sauce. Everything you can think of we sell.”
And the money they make from selling the recycled materials is used not for the hotel but for the staff.
"The funds of all these things that we sell we put them in a fund for staff and in December all of the money we have made from the sale through the year we use it to purchase groceries. We give it out to our staff for their Christmas."
The famous Le Petit Cafe has been serving their sweet treats and hot coffee in and on Biodegradable for years.
Jim Scott - GM, Radisson
"The cups are all paper-based so they are bio-degradable, the box containers are biodegradable. We use wax paper and the bags that look like plastic bags are actually made from corn compost. It looks like plastic but they are biodegradable as well. The forks, the little plastic looking forks and knives and spoons that are in Le Petite those are all bio-degradable and those are all Eco-Friendly products. The pastry boxes that we have are paper and those are biodegradable. We get that from another supplier so again instead of using the plastic their may still be a few products that we have to use plastic bags but I am pretty sure we have gotten rid of it."
But Scott says it is neither cheap nor easy going green, but it is worth it because of the positive effect it has not just on the environment but on the customers.
"Being green right now and being green for the last ten years has not been cheap or easy. It comes with a lot of education, it comes with a lot of education. It comes with a lot of training. The alternative products that are available to us and have been available to us are sometimes ten to a hundred times more expensive than a plastic or styrofoam option so yea there is a lot of challenges and then I mentioned the training part, the people involved our team our staff are in tune and understand why we don't use plastic and why we use other products takes a lot of work, a lot of energy to change people habits and mindsets when it comes to going green but it is worth it."
The Radisson hotel is a shining example of an environmentally friendly place but they are not the only ones making green moves.
The majority of the food from the famous eatery Chon Saan no longer comes in a styrofoam plate, instead, it comes in a reusable container, and owner Lee Mark Chang says it is not only more eco-friendly it is also 100 times more presentable than the sloppy styrofoam.
Lee Mark Chang - Manager, Chon Saan Palace
"We have already prepared ourselves and have been trying to move away from foam for a number of years. For example, we used to use these for our Chop Suey containers, instead of the regular foam containers and it used to have the partition where you have you stir-fried food and your fries. We have graduated to using these ones where it is more presentable and nicer."
Chang says when they made the switch to the fancy new reusable containers many customers were resistant because they felt they were getting less food but he made it clear that each plate can carry the same and at times more food than the styrofoam.
Lee Mark Chang
"A lot of customers always complain and say this one hold more than this one. They are actually both the same. They are the same. We have done tests. I showed you a test with the reusable containers we used for Fried Rice and Chow Mien hold the exact same. These containers avoid spillage when we deliver but now we wanted to do a nicer presentation so we starting using these. These are both 30-ounce containers and they hold the same."
Now instead of buying brand new containers, many customers are collecting the Chon Saan ones and using them for anything they can.
"Yes, I do believe a lot of my customers are reusing them and I have been told they reuse them. I was just talking with a friend of mine and he said he has about fifty of them stacked up at home. I told him he can make sure he uses them or he can give them back to me and I could make sure I clean them up and reuse them again They are very sturdy, even with the hot temperature food they don't budge or melt. They are also microwavable also."
Perhaps the best part is that the change in the container has not affected the price of food.
"The prices are usually raised because of the gas cost or vegetable cost that goes up but apart from that we don't raise our prices because of the containers. Our prices were set already before we got the containers."
"So if something was 22. 50 just because it is a different container your not going to raise the price?"
"No no, it stays and I stress again we make sure it is the same amount of food that they are getting."
So, going green may not be easy or complication free, but it has its own benefits, for business, for the planet and everyone on it.
So, where can you get these products? Tomorrow we’ll show you the eco-friendly company that imports a variety environmentally friendly items.