Styrofoam, just the sound of the word may send chills down the spines of many.
“Doesn’t that stuff NEVER break down?”
The answer is Yes. But there is more to the story. Styrofoam is actually Polystyrene aka Plastic, which has been infused by air to puff it up. We all know that air is a good insulator, so Styrofoam keeps your coffee warmer longer for this reason.
If you throw Styrofoam in the trash, then it will go to a landfill and will not break down for hundreds of years, maybe never! So what do we do about all of this foam waste?
You got it! Styrofoam is actually very recyclable, but one of the least recycled materials because it is mostly air and therefore recyclers do not waste their time hauling it because the rates are too high.
Luckily, there are progressive companies like Dart Container in Mason, MI (outside Lansing) who have a polystyrene recycling facility and collect within a 100 square miles as well as accept deliveries of used Styrofoam. If you would like to learn more about Dart and their recycling initiative please read my article about it, which is based on a tour I took of their facility.
Recently, a life cycle analysis (LCA) was released by Cascades, Inc., which dispels many myths about the illustrious Styrofoam. The LCA demonstrates the vast capabilities of the material as well as calculating the ecological effects of its manufacture and use.
The study proves that polystyrene is actually a good choice for the environment, based on the fact that the impact of a material on the environment is determined by the type and amount of energy used to make it. Here’s what they found out:
- Produced least amount of greenhouse gases throughout its entire lifecycle from raw material extraction to end-of-life.
- Composed of 90 percent air.
- Recyclable, though rarely recycled.
- Using recycled polystyrene has tangible ecological benefits, using the recycled material results in less raw material extraction.
Designed to judge the environmental impact of Cascade’s food packaging trays, the LCA included 7 types of packaging materials.
- Foamed and oriented polystyrene (XPS and OPS) #6 Plastic.
- Standard and recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET and RPET) #1 Plastic.
- Polylactic acid polymer (PLA) grouped with the #7 Plastic category.
- Polypropylene (PP) #5 Plastic.
- Molded pulp (made from recycled newspapers and telephone books).
The president of Cascades, Luc Langevin said:
“This analysis provides an new perspective on food packaging. The environmental performance of our trays is much better than popular belief. Polystyrene foam can now be part of our environmental packaging solution.”
“These findings have us taking stock of our current situation so that we can better understand our impact and thereby improve our efforts to reduce the environmental footprint left by our products.”
I hope that this post helps shed some light on the myth’s about Styrofoam. It is actually a very ecologically sound choice, thus why we use and recycle all of our Styrofoam cups here at Maxi. We hope that in the future, more companies and consumers start to understand the ecological benefits associated with choosing Styrofoam over paper cups. I urge you to please forward this post to someone whom you think would benefit from the information.
The full results of the LCA are available on cascades website.
Original article found though Packaging Diva published by JoAnne Hines.
You can read the original article by Cascade’s Inc. in The Sacramento Bee by following this link.