Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We can all begin to look forward to the next week of turkey sandwiches and other assorted leftovers – which presents the topic for our post, leftovers (and their containers).
We all love breakfast leftovers, be it turkey and cranberry sauce, or last weeks enchiladas. But what we are keeping those leftovers in? – and are those containers hazardous to our health and our environment?
Anytime you go out to eat and box up your leftovers, pay attention to what the containers are made of. Most dining locations are still using to go containers made of polystyrene, better known as styrofoam.
Styrofoam is made of a chemical called Styrene. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. These chemicals have the capability to leak into our food, especially when heated – which can threaten our health, immune systems, and even reproductive systems!
Not only is styrofoam bad for our health, but a study by the EPA in 1986 labeled the production of styrofoam as the 5th largest contributor of hazardous waste. Though the production has undoubtedly slowed since the late 80s, The National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research identified 57 chemical byproducts released during the combustion of polystyrene foam. These chemicals are released into the air, so even if we are steering clear of styrofoam products, we are breathing in their pollution every day!
Styrofoam products are made with petroleum, another heavily polluting, non-sustainable substance. Also, the use of hydrocarbons in styrofoam releases them into the air, and when mixed with nitrogen oxide in sunlight produces tropospheric ozone – a serious pollutant at ground level. In fact, the EPA found “In animal studies, long-term exposure to high levels of ozone has produced permanent structural damage to animal lungs while both short and long-term exposure has been found to decrease the animal’s capability to fight infection.” In short, styrofoam’s air pollutants damage our immune system too! Yuck!
Lastly, styrofoam obviously pollutes our planet in the form of litter. All plastics account for 25 to 30% of space in our landfills – because of their extremely slow capability to biodegrade, especially styrofoam. Since this material does not turn into bio matter, it breaks into pieces that spread across our planet, often harming and choking animals causing eventual starvation.
Many cities and countries including Taiwan, Portland, OR, and Orange County, CA, have even outlawed styrofoam. While we wish all of America would follow their lead, until then, people should be educated on the harmful effects of this product. Now that you know some of the facts, do yourself and the world a favor; stop using styrofoam!
At OMPP we use all biodegradable packaging. But we suggest carrying your own containers with you when you go out to eat, incase you need to take home leftovers from a restaurant that does use styrofoam. Get in the habit of keeping a few containers somewhere in your car for anytime you need them. The extra bit of effort is worth it for your health, and the environment.
However, if you happen to acquire some styrofoam, or have any in your house now, it can be recycled per se. It can not be made into any other product, only broken down for packing purposes and other uses. It can be difficult to find a place to recycle your styrofoam, but every pound of polystyrene recycled is a pound of new polystyrene that doesn’t have to be created. Use the search on www.earth911.com Enter polystyrene and your location in the search boxes to find a list of recycling centers and businesses that will accept styrofoam. Note: be sure to enter “polystyrene” rather than “styrofoam”.
What to do with Styrofoam: 1) Break it down and use it for your own packing. 2) Many craft stores have use for styrofoam; try dropping some off at your local store. 3) The Alliance of Foam Packing Recyclers will find a use for your styrofoam when mailed to them. Visit http://tinyurl.com/yeg8mkb for more information. 4) Also, you may be able to sell a large collection of styrofoam. Visit http://tinyurl.com/ybeussc to search for a list of different polystyrene buyers.