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#28 Styrofoam

#28 Styrofoam

Did you know, it is estimated that styrofoam takes more than 500 years to decompose? Styrofoam has been around since 1941 – but most people don’t know the the harmful effects of this petroleum based product on people and our planet. How can a product that is 95% air create such a detriment to people and our planet? 

Reality of Styrofoam:

Styrofoam is made from a plastic called polystyrene – which is a petroleum based plastic. Styrofoam is used in a variety of ways – from food packaging to packaging fragile products. A 2014 National Toxicological Program report on carcinogens classified styrofoam as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen – and has been linked to occurrences of leukemia and lymphoma cancer.

Facts on Styrofoam:

  • Annually, around 2.3 billion kilograms of styrofoam end up in our landfills and waterways – of which, 80% ends up in landfills, and most of the remaining 20% in waterways.
  • The world produces more than 14 million tons of styrofoam each year.
  • Americans alone throw away around 25 billion styrofoam cups annually.
  • 25-35% of all landfill waste is styrofoam products.
  • 40% of all styrofoam produced is use for food storage.
  • Styrofoam sitting in landfills releases methane gases – that have over 20 times the ozone destroying potency as CO2.
  • Styrofoam breaks down into smaller particles that marine animals can easily mistake for food.
  • Styrene, a component of polystyrene, is a harmful chemical that can leach into food and drink.
  • Less than 1% of styrofoam is recycled.

How can I make an impact:

Tier 1: Global Goodness

  • Simply say no to products packaged in styrofoam.
  • The majority of eco-friendly companies have chosen not to use styrofoam in their packaging.  
  • Purchase a reusable travel cup. Stainless steel or glass cups are a great alternative to to-go cups. 
  • If eating out, take your own glassware – or simply request a piece of aluminum foil instead of a styrofoam box.  

Tier 2: Planet Protector

  • All of Tier 1
  • Buy Used. Need a new tv or computer? Look online or at a used goods store to see if you can find the model you are looking for. You will save the pesky packaging – and most likely a few dollars.  
  • Check with your local UPS store about styrofoam recycling. Many times they will recycle styrofoam or connect you with a company who will dispose of it safely for you.
  • Go to https://earth911.com for a local recycling options. 

Tier 3: Earth Angel

  • All of Tier 1 & 2
  • Repurpose it. Need to make an artificial flower arrangement – or want to insulate a dog house? Look online for creative ways to repurpose your styrofoam.  
  • Ask your local eateries to use eco-friendly packaging.
  • If styrofoam isn’t banned in your state or county, lobby Congress to ban styrofoam completely. Change can happen when individuals work together for a common cause. Go to https://storyofstuff.org/blog/styrofoam-bans-are-sweeping-across-the-nation/ to see the areas that have current bans on styrofoam. 

Facts References: 

http://nomorestyrofoam.org
https://greendiningalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/real-cost-of-styrofoam_written-report.pdf
https://www.cleanwater.org/files/publications/ca/cwa_fact_sheet_polystyrene_litter_2011_03.pdf
https://www.colliercountyfl.gov/your-government/divisions-s-z/solid-hazardous-waste-management/keeping-green-helpful-information-page/the-facts-on-styrofoam-reduce-and-reuse
https://homeguides.sfgate.com/reduce-styrofoam-cup-use-79369.html
https://storyofstuff.org/blog/styrofoam-bans-are-sweeping-across-the-nation/

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