Styrofoam is also known as polystyrene. It is commonly used in every day products like packing material, take out boxes, and even in explosives. It can also be easily identified by looking at the bottom of any packaging and noting the triangular arrows with the number 6 stamped in the middle. Styrofoam is a part of our everyday life and while it is convenient and affordable, it is also not a good product to be around. Polystyrene is made from a substance called petroleum which is a highly flammable substance and it is also made from a chemical substance called benzene. Benzene is a dangerous carcinogen and is known to cause forms of cancer when humans are exposed to it.
Polystyrene is most affordable when it comes to packaging and shipping. It is most commonly used as padding when packaging large items. However, polystyrene takes an unbelievable amount of time to break down and it is a hazard to animals that may accidentally consume it. It can block their digestive tracts and in turn, cause them to die.
So, if polystyrene is so dangerous, why are we all so exposed to it? A majority of it is also used in packaging our food such as raw meat. It is cheap to manufacture and can be used in a wide variety of ways. If the public knew more about how dangerous and toxic polystyrene is, most people would avoid it. However, because of recent discoveries about this deadly material, dozens of cities in the United States have laws set in place that do not allow the use of polystyrene when it comes to being in direct contact with food.
How can polystyrene be recycled?
Most recycling programs will not accept any polystyrene so at the moment, it is up to our individual creativity on how to recycle it. We must avoid throwing it away in the garbage at all costs so that it does not end up on our dumps. One way to recycle polystyrene is to keep it and use it as packaging padding. Some craft stores have been known to accept polystyrene donations for their craft purposes as well. Another creative way to recycle polystyrene is to use it in planters. It is an excellent way to help with water drainage in potted plants.
Regardless of how you choose to recycle it, avoid simply throwing it away in the trash no matter how tempting and easy it may seem. It is extremely damaging to our ecosystem. Some people burn polystyrene in order to eliminate it from their home. However, it is hazardous to health to do so. Burning polystyrene causes it to release a gas called styrene that will negatively affect the human nervous system. It also produces a range of toxic chemicals that can harm any living creature in its vicinity.