It’s understood there may be moves afoot to revive a Penarth Civic Society initiative to reduce the proliferation in the town of plastic food trays made of expanded polystyrene – also known as (EPS).
Chris Wyatt of Penarth Civic Society – who is one of the volunteer beach wardens who keep Penarth’s foreshore free of litter – has described EPS as “one of the worst pollutants of our beach here at Penarth” particularly in the form of take-away food containers.
Discarded containers often spill out of over-full litter-bins and frequently end up on the seashore – where volunteer beach wardens conscientiously pick-up large amounts of it every week. Since Mr Wyatt’s original alert – published in the Society newsletter in 2013 – the number of EPS containers discarded in Penarth appears to have multiplied.
Environmentalists say EPS takes “hundreds of years” to degrade and – as it easily diasintegrates into small beads – it makes it not only difficult to retrieve, but more likely to enter the marine food chain. The material is not recyclable
Last year the environmental group Friends of Barry Beaches established an on-line petition calling on the Welsh Labour Government to “halt the sight of millions of polystyrene food and drinks cartons littering the beaches and countryside of Wales. “
On July 12 2016 the Welsh Labour Government kicked the issue into the long-grass – claiming that the data on polystyrene litter on Welsh beaches was “very limited” – but did agree to commission a Swansea University study of the problem.
On July 20th however what were described as “shocking scenes” of takeaway litter on Barry Island beach prompted Penarth councillor and Vale of Glamorgan Council Deputy Leader Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines) to publish a question on Twitter :- “Should we stop selling take-aways until people stop littering? #justsaying”.
Cllr Burnett’s comment provoked angry reaction from Barry fast-food retailers with the proprietor of O’Shea’s retorting on Twitter “Don’t blame the people who sell it! #Ridiculouscomment #worktogether #EducateToParticipate” – and calling Cllr Burnett’s comments “ridiculous”.
The adverse reaction in Barry this summer, appears to have put a temporary stop to any further action by the Vale Council – but it also begs the question – if the fast-food retailers aren’t responsible for the proliferating volume of EPS customer-trays, then just who is?
The Penarth Civic Society’s Chris Wyatt points out that EPS food containers are actually illegal in some parts of the world and, in those places, hot-food retailers have had to find alternatives – and there are now plenty of such products on the market .
It’s understood that one idea now being suggested by Mr Wyatt is the issue in Penarth of special “Beach Friendly” certificates to all fast-food outlets who agree to withdraw the use of EPS containers.
It may well be however that – given the environmental damage caused by EPS trays and cups – responsible hot-food take-away retailers in Penarth might well want to consider withdrawing these packing products of their own volition .