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.