on Japanese environmentalism and Styrofoams

You know how I hate Styrofoams. Well, I was eating dinner just now when I realized how much Styrofoam I already consumed since I arrived here and it would seem that I have no choice for a year.

Japan has the most up-to-date technology in terms of industrial pollution. I haven’t had the chance yet to explore some of their facilities but by just looking around the city, you would know how conscious they are in terms of pollution. You wouldn’t see any garbage around, the waste disposal process is too complicated but effective in some ways and you can hardly smell foul smell in their creeks, not even from their cars.

In the Philippines, the island I hailed from, I am bombarded everyday with several kinds of pollution. From air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution. Name it, I probably inhaled, smelled, heard and tasted them.

Here, I can even hear the ants crawl. Well, I haven’t exactly heard any ants nor have I seen one lately. But you get my point right?

Even though I would expect that Japanese people would have one of the highest consciousness in terms of environmental protection (either out of general fear of consequences or discipline) but they can’t seem to get over their love of Styrofoams!

It’s literally everywhere. Whenever I go to the supermarket just to buy raw ingredients for food. Stacks of Styrofoam-packed goods, Styrofoam meat trays, Styrofoam noodle containers! When I’m too lazy to cook, go to Lawson’s or Family Mart, Styrofoam-packed meals! It sizes varies too. They also have this crazy way of redesigning Styrofoams to look like genuine wood!

Styrofoam is a trademark of The Dow Chemical Company (The company who purchased Bhopal Pesticide Plant in India, one of the most tragic industrial tragedy) for “closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam”. So the generic name for Styrofoam is polystyrene foam. So why do I abhor polystyrene.

Well for good enough reasons:

1. It is designed to be disposable. It has a short life span which means it directly adds up to our landfills and dumpsites.

2. It’s not easily recyclable. And recycling it means incinerating it. And incineration is generally not good.

3. It is not biodegradable and even if it does it will take years and we are not talking about 5-10 years here. It’s hundreds of years. And because of its light weight it does not sell as scrap even. And even when it biodegrades, it can affect groundwater quality and  air quality because of the liquid or gaseous substances it will emit.

4. It is one of the causes of marine pollution, polystyrene foam is one of the “major component of plastic debris in the ocean”.

5. It releases chlorofluorocarbon, the culprit to ozone depletion! CFC is a stable element that when it reaches the ozone layer, it completely destroys it (to put it simply).  Although some innovations were made by switching from CFC to hydrochlrofluorocarbons (HCFCs)  to lessen its ozone depletion potential, however, studies have shown that it has now higher potential to adversely affect our climate! Yes, HCFCs can also cause global warming! And it is said to have greater impact than carbon dioxide!

My list can go on and on, but what I want to say is that for a country with so much potentials, they should be venturing now towards sustainable packaging. There are already existing alternatives to this seeming addiction. They should have already created something more innovative and environmentally friendly. I hate to stereotype but they are Japanese! Come on! Invent something!

I hate it when my being an environmental advocate is stifled by the fact that I have no alternatives. I can probably find some but it would rob me like hell. (I know, i know, if there’s a will there will be a way) It’s not as if they have wet markets here like in the Philippines where I can bring my own container to shop for meat, fruits and vegetables. And another sad thing, traditional Japanese packaging is actually earth-friendly. It uses available materials on hand, not polystyrene!  I wonder what happened to that tradition, probably swept aside with increasing technological innovations. 😦

So for anyone who want to know more about the harms of Styrofoam or polystyrene and to learn about alternatives, check these links:

http://earthcycle.com/home.html

http://www.naturopack.org/

or if you want to know how to be sustainable consumer:

http://www.treehugger.com/buygreen/?campaign=th_nav_buygreen

http://blog.sustainablog.org/

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2 thoughts on “on Japanese environmentalism and Styrofoams

  1. a slap in the face…. cool
    it is better to stand for the truth, than ignoring the truth,
    for the truth shall set ya free.

    “Peace”

    1. hey there!

      we have to face our devils, in this case, polystyrene :p wish i can find alternatives…

      peace!

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