Saturday, November 17, 2012

STYROFOAM: What is it? How is it made? Why is it bad? What can you do to help?

Good Morning Readers!

So today's post is on STYROFOAM!

4 questions will be answered throughout this post:

1) What is styrofoam?

2) How is it made?

3) Why is it bad?

4) What can you do to help? 

To answer the first question... WHAT is styrofoam?
Styrofoam is also known as Plastic #6 and Expanded Polystyrene Foam.
Styrofoam is a type of plastic product, so it is petroleum based meaning it is made from oil.

Some people buy and use them for disposable products.

Styrofoam take out plates

Styrofoam Plates

Styrofoam Cups

Whenever people and/or larger companies ship their products, they use "packing peanuts" as a shock absorber so their product is not damaged during transport
Sometimes they even have specially made styrofoam products to hold other products

Second question:
How is it made?

Styrofoam is a plastic/petroleum product, so it starts off as a plastic pellet (although I couldn't find out how these plastic pellets are made). About 1 millimeter big and it is put through a heating and cooling process. Manufacturers heat the pellets and they expand to about 40 or 50 times its original size. They expand the pellets to whatever sizes they need and then mold and cut it into whatever product they require.

I found a really cool video you can watch to see how styrofoam is made if you **CLICK HERE**

Third question:
Why is it bad?
This is the MEAT part of today's web log.  :D

Styrofoam products, whenever it is exposed to any type of heat it lets off a fume that contains a type of neurotoxin. (For those who don't know, neurotoxins damage the nervous system of the body)
Whenever you put a styrofoam plate or bowl into the microwave, or when you pour hot coffee or tea into a styrofoam cup, this poison will seep into your food and you ingest it.
I love Cup Noodles.... But.... The styrofoam...

I LOVE plate lunches! But... The styrofoam...
 This fume that is let off from the styrofoam when it is exposed to heat can affect your breathing, your respiratory system, it harms parts of your eye, is an eye irritant and if you're exposed to it for long periods of time it can cause asthma, kidney problems and even cancer.

It's bad for the environment.
As I've said before, styrofoam is a type of plastic so it's a petroleum product meaning it is made from oil.
Styrofoam is made to be a "disposable" product, so you use it once and "throw" it away.
Oil is not a renewable resource so it wastes our oil resources. It's not a sustainable product and you waste your money whenever you buy styrofoam cups, bowls, plates and ice chests.

Whatever you throw away DOES end up in the ocean and Styrofoam is a HUGE player in the marine debris problem.
Styrofoam is plastic. Plastic, whenever exposed to the Sun's UV rays, goes through a process called photodegradation.

Plastic does NOT biodegrade. It photodegrades.
(My video logs on Photodegradation can be found if you *CLICK HERE*
 or if you **CLICK HERE** )

So plastic breaks into smaller and smaller and smaller pieces and it just keeps getting smaller to the point where it can even turn into a powder. (Yes, a plastic powder).

Like I said earlier, styrofoam is a major player in marine debris.
Because plastic breaks down into tiny bits, animals in the food chain mistake these plastic bits as a food source.
Animals down in the food chain WILL ingest this plastic thinking it is food. As animals higher in the food chain eat the smaller animals that ate the plastic, they too ingest the plastic.

People, like myself, who love eating fish have most likely eaten plastic at some point in our lives.
The plastic pollution problem is so abundant at this point, that there's no way you have NOT eaten plastic.
Fish, turtles, birds, sharks, whales and different kinds of plankton have ingested plastic in many different forms. Whether it be plastic bags, plastic bits, nurdles, plastic pellets, bottle caps etc.

Sea bird died from eating plastic products
Fish caught shown to have plastic in its belly
A sea turtle pooping out a plastic bag
(I even found footage of a whale that died from eating plastic bags... It can be viewed if you *CLICK HERE* )

Since styrofoam is virtually weightless, it can easily float across the land and ocean, getting into every major water way and landing onto every coastline, adding more to the pollution problem.

I wrote a web log 2 years back about how after big rains, South Kihei gets a bombardment of trash.
(You can read it by *Clicking Here* )
I took this picture on Lipoa St. 2 years ago. This is one of the flooded storm drains outside of what is now Times Supermarket
From what I've discovered, styrofoam is NOT recyclable if it is "contaminated" with food.
If I were to put coffee in a styrofoam cup, I would not be able to recycle that cup because it has been "contaminated".

Also, remember what I said earlier, about plastic and styrofoam photodegrading?
There are styrofoam bits floating out in the ocean because of pollution. Now think about it:
While the styrofoam is being photodegraded by the Sun (a heat source) it is also emitting that neurotoxin I mentioned earlier.
So, not only is it adding to the pollution problem it is also poisoning the land and waters.

This leads up to my last question: What can you do to help?

The biggest thing you can do right now to help is TO NOT BY THE PRODUCT AT ALL.
Just simply, DO NOT buy it.
YOU as the consumer can choose not to buy.

You can also buy re-usable products such as Jamba Juice mugs or Starbucks cups

Or re-use other products.
Quick example: if you wanted to mail something to a loved one, instead of buying packing peanuts just wrap your package in some old t-shirts that you don't use.

If you go to a restaurant and ask for a take out plate or "doggy bag" just ask for them to put it in an eco-friendly container.
For example: The Outback Steakhouse restaurant here on Maui can put your take out food into an aluminum container that has a plastic lid.
On Maui, we have a 3 Can Plan, and this aluminum/plastic container is recyclable.
Another example: Maui Community College have plastic and box board containers that we can eat from and recycle.

So just ask for an eco-friendly container. NOT a styrofoam one.

It may feel embarrassing at first because it makes you look like you are picky; but if you just explain that you are trying not to use styrofoam products, people oblige and respect you for it~

Another thing that I'm going to try is that I've heard you can actually write to the manufacturers and ask them to stop making styrofoam products.
REMEMBER: As the consumer, you can control what it is you want businesses to sell. And trust me, one thing you do NOT want is STYROFOAM.

Another example I've heard of is that you can write to places like McDonalds, Jamba Juice, Starbucks and other places that use styrofoam and ask them to STOP using those products.

(I don't mean to sound like I'm yelling whenever I put things in CAPS. I'm just trying to emphasize on certain points).

If the people who make styrofoam understand that the consumers DO NOT want styrofoam, they WILL stop making it. We just need to choose not to buy.

TRUST ME. You don't want this styrofoam product.

No styrofoam please~

To sum it up:

Styrofoam gives off a fume which contains a neurotoxin that is bad for the body whenever it is exposed to some kind of heat.

It photodegrades (not biodegrades) and greatly adds to the pollution problem.

It is made from crude oil, it wastes our oil resources and is not a sustainable or renewable product.

It is not (in most places) recyclable.

Our food sources ingest plastic (styrofoam being one of them) and we end up ingesting the plastic ourselves.

And it wastes your money$$$.

 I want to conclude this post with a few statements that I thought of. I'd like you to think about it:

People are not willing to give up luxury and convenience for safety and sustainability. Why?

You, as the consumer, control the market. Businesses don't tell you what to buy. You tell the business what you want to buy.

I hope you were able to learn some from my post!
If you liked it please follow my web log!

I also have a youtube video channel you can Subscribe to:

I have a Facebook page you can Like:

And a Wix Site if you want to find out more about me and my adventures:

I hope to hear from you soon!


  1. Very True , and not to buy this product.

  2. Thank you so much for your article, I have a science fair project and I found this very helpful. I am including your website in my bibolyography so other people can read it too.


    1. Good luck on your science project! :)


  3. None of the pictures you show in your blog are made of STYROFOAM. STYROFOAM is a material invented by The Dow Chemical Company and is used to insulate homes and commercial buildings to reduce the amount of energy required to heat or cool a home. Though some of your facts are correct, your use of the word Styrofoam is not.

    1. This is a fairly old entry and a few things have changed since then. However, many of the pictures in this particular entry are indeed styrofoam.

      Polystyrene has a multitude of uses including insulation but not only insulation.

      Also, don't trust a quick wikipedia search thinking it has all the information on a certain subject. ^_^

      Thanks for commenting though. I'll have to write up another entry with the new information that's come out.

  4. Thank you very much no matter how old a post is it is still teachable..... as I have learned much today.....once again thank you

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  16. You need to go to, a recycling company, and get actual facts about foam. EPS can be recycled even if it is contaminated. Dart has recycling programs at schools throughout the country where they recycle foam lunch trays. There is a lot of ignorance and misinformation about EPS so take time and learn how to recycle it instead of just banning it. Also check out to see how foam is densified so it can be recycled.

    1. Strofoam is no good for Anything. Get out of denial about it. He said in most places. We can't recycle it in Philadelphia.

    2. You probably want to impress about how much you think you know. People like you are the beneficiaries of activities that are destroying us and the environment. Do not try to block us from being positively informed.

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  18. Thank you for sharing this Truth about Styrofoam. It is not a healthy product. I simply refuse to eat or drink from it. Please continue to keep the public informed.

  19. Thank you for sharing this Truth about Styrofoam. It is not a healthy product. I simply refuse to eat or drink from it. Please continue to keep the public informed.

  20. Thank you for sharing this Truth about Styrofoam. It is not a healthy product. I simply refuse to eat or drink from it. Please continue to keep the public informed.

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  23. The name "styrofoam" is a Dow company trademark and is extruded polystyrene foam (xps), the examples you have are expanded polystyrene foam (eps), just because you have been incorrectly calling it all "styrofoam" doesn't make it so.
    "However, many of the pictures in this particular entry are indeed styrofoam." No, they are not.

  24. How about this?

  25. Can any body say science behind styrofoam packing material. Please help me. I get project in my engineering

  26. Can any body say science behind styrofoam packing material. Please help me. I get project in my engineering

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