A lot! Styrofoam, the trademark name of the Dow Chemical Company for polystyrene foam, and used fordisposable cups and plates, food packaging, mailing material, appliancepackaging and much more, is manufactured from petroleum as well as otherchemicals, one of which, benzene, is a known carcinogen. Because polystyrene isso prevalent, many of us assume it is safe, but according to a Foundation for Achievementsin Science and Education fact sheet, long-term exposure to even small amountsof styrene can causefatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, low platelet and hemoglobin values,chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities, and carcinogenic effects. It has notbeen proven to cause cancer in humans, although there is evidence it causescancer in animals. Polystyrene can release potentially toxic breakdown products, especially when heated. It’s never a good idea to put any typeplastic, in the microwave – use glass instead.
Styrofoam also takes a long time to break down in the environment and isnot easily recycled either. (Styrofoam is classified as a #6 plastic, which many recyclingcenters don’t take.) Styrofoam is said to take up 25% of space in the landfills where it can leach into the soil and groundwater. Furthermore, itcan be lethal to any animal that might ingest it and can block theirdigestive tracts, ultimately causing starvation.
Trynot to buy products packaged in Styrofoam, particularly food items. Food and petroleumreally don’t go together! It is inevitable you’ll have some, so reuse yourStyrofoam for packing materials or crafts (donate them to schools for artprojects). I am now seeingeco-safe alternatives for Styrofoam cups and plates in some restaurants andhotels made from biodegradable cornstarch or from useless agricultural by-productsand mushroom roots.
Thenext time you buy a coffee to go and it comes in a Styrofoam cup, ask if youcan have a different cup. Even ifthey don’t have one, you’ll be planting a seed and eventually change willhappen.
Tofind Styrofoam recycling areas near you, visit Earth911.com and enter your zipcode.
Information compiled from Wikipedia.com, Ejnet.org, Greenlivingtips.com,earth911.com, www.gizmag.com -article by Tamith Cattermole, thedailygreen.com
For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.