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  • Jenica

Styrofoam: The Trap

Styrofoam – oh boy! It’s basically a zerowasters nightmare! If you haven’t jumped on the band wagon and ditched this stuff, let me give you just a few reasons why:

  • Styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose (according to Washington State University).

  • Styrofoam fills up 30% of the landfill space in the U.S.

  • Enough Styrofoam cups are produced each day to circle the earth.

  • Styrene exposure increases the risk of leukemia and lymphoma and is a neurotoxin.

  • Recycling options are limited and very rarely used (0.08% according to a study done by the California Integrated Waste Management Board).

So if after that, you are still stuck on Styrofoam? You’ll just have to find your own motivation. Because there is plenty here!

The question is now, what are my alternatives? Thankfully, a lot of shops and restaurants are turning to alternatives such as recyclable plastics, paper, or compostable items. I discussed some of these in a previous post - A Simple Cup. The best thing you can do to avoid styrofoam is not accepting take-home containers from restaurants and bringing your own. Start with bringing your own cup to get coffee. Then add it a glass or metal container when you are out at restaurants. And finally, ask shipping companies to use paper packaging if necessary.

If however you get stuck using Styrofoam unwillingly, there are some options.

First, reuse it.

The only good thing about Styrofoam is that it is easily washed. If it’s a food item, add it to your collection until it is worn out! It can also be added to a package as stuffing to continue its life span.

Second, recycle it.

And yes, there are options for recycling Styrofoam! Styro Recycle is a company based in Kent, WA that recycles Styrofoam and other polyethylene products. They offer local pick-up as well as have a drop-off facility in place for people that commute there (like me). You can also check the DART website for drop-off locations across the U.S.

This last February, I took a trip to Styro Recycle in Kent on my way down to Portland to visit a friend. For an entire year I had collected all of the “accident” Styrofoam I had collected. It wasn’t much, maybe one box full including that packaging for my new blender. But I had also been collecting my parent’s Styrofoam. Given their work in construction and on homes, they end up using Styrofoam (even though they try very hard not too!). In total, my car was packed with the trunk full and the back seat barely able to contain the Styrofoam. I was quite giddy with excitement on how wonderful it was going to be to recycle it all! And it was!

So start a collection in your home and save up your “accidental” Styrofoam! But, as much as possible, AVOID!

Styro Recycle accepts the following materials and this is how you should prepare them:

EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) Guidelines

Your material must be:

  • Clean

  • Dry

  • Free of all tape and any labels so it does not contaminate the recycle process.

  • Please bag your peanuts separately for drop off

  • No contaminated material accepted.

  • We will accept any amount, large or small. Sorry, no hot tub covers, please.

To Identify Your Foam:

  • Look for the #6 or EPS inside the recycle symbol

  • Bend the material - it should break and snap with loose beads

Polystyrene Examples:

Clean Styrofoam

Clean Takeout

Clean Polyethylene

Clean Shipping Coolers

Clean Styrofoam Sheets

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