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
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
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**
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...|
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|
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|
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: