WHAT’S WRONG WITH STYROFOAM?


A lot!  Styrofoam, the trademark name of the Dow Chemical Company for polystyrene foam, and used for disposable cups and plates, food packaging, mailing material, appliance packaging and lots more, is manufactured from petroleum as well as other chemicals. One chemical,  benzene, is a known carcinogen. Because polystyrene is so prevalent, many of us assume it is safe. But according to a Foundation for Achievements in Science and Education fact sheet, long-term exposure to even small amounts of styrene can cause fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, low platelet and hemoglobin values, chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities, and carcinogenic effects. It has not been proven to cause cancer in humans, although there is evidence it causes cancer in animals.  Polystyrene can release potentially toxic breakdown products, especially when heated.  It’s never a good idea to put any type plastic in the microwave – use glass instead.

Styrofoam also takes a long time to break down in the environment and is not easily recycled either. (Styrofoam is classified as a #6 plastic, which many recycling centers don’t take.) Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 styrofoam cups each year, or enough to circle the earth 436 times!  Styrofoam is said to take up 25% of space in the landfills where it can leach into the soil and groundwater.  Furthermore, it can be lethal to any animal that might ingest it and can block their digestive tracts, ultimately causing starvation.

Try not to buy products packaged in Styrofoam, especially food items. Food and petroleum really don’t go well together!  It is inevitable you’ll have some, so reuse your Styrofoam for packing materials, crafts, or donate them to schools for art projects.

Image by hahatago Flickr.com

Happily, I have seen eco-safe alternatives for Styrofoam cups and plates in some restaurants and hotels made from biodegradable cornstarch or from useless agricultural by-products and mushroom roots. These new products only take about 90 days to compost.   Change is happening!

To find Styrofoam recycling areas near you, visit Earth911.com and enter your zip code.

Information compiled from Wikipedia.com, Ejnet.org, Greenlivingtips.com, earth911.com, www.gizmag.com – article by Tamith Cattermole, thedailygreen.com

http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/tips/polystyrene-stryrofoam-cups-460529?click=main_sr

http://www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/218/1/Recycling-styrofoam.html

http://www.ewg.org/news/84-ways-you-can-help-planet

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