Why Styrofoam is bad for your health and the planet
To understand whether someone or something is a friend or foe, sometimes you need to do a little bit of investigation. Here we are going to take a look at the question; is Styrofoam the same as Polystyrene? And how do they impact the environment?
Polystyrene is a petroleum-based plastic. During manufacturing, polystyrene beads are processed using chemicals to create Expanded Polystyrene. Styrofoam is the registered trading name for Expanded Polystyrene. So they are much the same thing; the same way we sometimes call all tissues “Kleenex” regardless of the brand.
It’s no surprise that anything derived from plastics, or anything that is processed and manufactured with chemicals is going to harm the environment. But when you can’t walk down the street without seeing a discarded polystyrene cup, what can be done?
Last month in July 2019, New York City led the charge on the war against using Styrofoam and Polystyrene. This includes packing peanuts, Styrofoam sheets, Styrofoam blocks, and polystyrene foam.
CNN Business reported that Styrofoam and polystyrene couldn’t be “recycled in a manner that is economically feasible” or “environmentally effective.”
And New York is not playing around. Mayor Bill de Blasio has introduced fines between $250-$1000 for Styrofoam and polystyrene violators saying:
“There’s no reason to continue allowing this environmentally unfriendly substance to flood our streets, landfills, and waterways.”
Not to be outdone, Costa Rica is also backing the environment for the win, with President Alvarado announcing a commitment to reducing single-use plastics, expanded polystyrene and Styrofoam use in public schools, health facilities, and prisons.
So while New York and Costa Rica have gotten the ball rolling, what’s happening here in Oz? And can Styrofoam be recycled in Australia?
The average Australian household sends approx. 1 ton of waste to landfill each year. While there aren’t statistics pertaining to Styrofoam and polystyrene specifically, you can bet your bottom dollar that the 1 ton of waste is not Styrofoam free. Experts estimate that it will take between 500 and 1 million years for the components of polystyrene and Styrofoam to break down naturally.
But surely you can recycle Styrofoam? The short answer is yes. But the Styrofoam must be in pristine condition. To recycle Styrofoam and polystyrene it must be super clean, free from dyes and not contaminated in any way. This is no small feat considering the majority of things popped in a polystyrene box or cup are food, meat, and liquids.
Not only that but just because polystyrene and Styrofoam are recyclable, doesn’t mean they will be recycled. Wait. What? That’s right. The fact is that those companies and organisations that can recycle Styrofoam and polystyrene need to be making a profit, and getting polystyrene and Styrofoam to a point where it can be recycled is often too labour intensive and not financially viable. Yup, money before Mother Earth.
The meal kit delivery industry is rife with the excessive use of plastics, polystyrene insulation and sometimes it’s all wrapped up neatly in a Styrofoam box! A U.S study has shown that the chemicals used to manufacture Styrofoam can leach into food; traces of the chemical Styrene have been found in 40% of Americans!
With the help of our valued customers who leave boxes at their door for us to collect, My Foodie Box can reuse them up to five times before they are recycled.
Some meal kit delivery companies believe a polystyrene esky is the best way to keep their meal kits cool, but at My Foodie Box, we know that the humble sheep is the authority on keeping cool under our hot Australian sun!
The team at Planet Promote Packaging provides us with natural wool insulation pouches, which are sealed with a recyclable polyethylene wrap. After collecting these pouches from our clients, they are sanitised and reused up to four times.
Once the wool insulation pouches have been used to their full potential, the team at Rich Gro turn them into fertiliser; putting the nutrients back into the earth.
We might not be able to save the world, but My Foodie Box and the teams that support us are committed to doing our part.