Calls for Botswana to ban kaylite packaging or foamed polystyrene which is regularly used by most take-out food in restaurants in the country are growing. In their report titled “Why kaylite has to be banned” a group of Environmental health specialists from Canada who were in the country on Wednesday said, “Polystyrene material, commonly known as kaylite, has significant risks to the human body. Studies conducted over the past two years show that once you put hot food in kaylite, it starts to depreciate making the consumption of food very dangerous.”
The report also states that kaylite takes more than 175 years to start degradation adding that “they release toxic gases when heated extensively”. Most restaurants in Botswana use kaylite packaging as it is very cheap compared to other forms of packaging and once a person gets exposed to chemicals emitted by heated kaylite it can cause cancer, headaches, weakness, gastrointestinal and minor kidney effects.”
This is the second time in less than six months that the government has been urged to ban kaylite. In October 2017, another environmental health expert who was in Botswana said “kaylite is not economically viable to recycle and it is feared to decrease the ability to concentrate and affects the eyes, nose and throat.” Back then he also advised the government to consider “hard plastic packaging for their hot foods or cardboard and paper packaging for their fast food items or 2-division foil containers.”
Some conservationists in Botswana argue that the country should focus on containers made from natural materials like although they are more costly. Over the past year, many countries in the West and two African countries have so far imposed restrictions on use of the foam containers in serving food.
An Environmental expert based in Lobatse, Osego Nkala said although kaylite is environmentally unfriendly, the polystyrene sector in Botswana does not have the capacity to invest in alternative technologies as they are costly. “It will take time, probably years as the sector is not doing very well.”
Kaylites are also used in the transport industry where polystyrene is used as cushion against the damage of goods in transit and comprises of 57 potent chemicals that generate toxic by-products when burnt, which can prove fatal overtime to one’s health.