The common consensus, that I can find, is that it takes Styrofoam 50 years to decompose. 50 Years! Yeah that’s too long for something you use once and toss into the garbage. I was thinking about Styrofoam the other day when my husband and I were out to eat and the little diner only had Styrofoam cups for water. He looked at me and said ‘only get one, we can share a cup’.
So why is Styrofoam so bad? Here are a few facts that you may not know about Styrofoam from greenliving.lovetoknow.com:
~Non-Biodegradable – Styrofoam appears to last forever, as it is resistant to photolysis or the breaking down of materials by protons originating from a light source. This fact, combined with the fact that Styrofoam is lightweight and floats, means that over time a great deal of Styrofoam has accumulated along coasts and waterways around the world. It is now considered the main component of marine debris.
~Not-Usually Recycled – Many municipal recycling programs do not recycle Styrofoam because it is virtually weightless which makes it worthless as scrap. The same lightweight property of the material makes collecting it difficult, because even light winds can send it blowing great distances.
~HFCs – Styrofoam is manufactured by using HFCs, or hydrofluorocarbons, which have negative impacts on the ozone layer and global warming. HFCs are less detrimental to the ozone than CFCs, which they replaced in the manufacturing of Styrofoam, but it is thought that the impact of HFCs on global warming is much more serious.
~Flame Retardants – The brominated flame retardants that are used on Styrofoam are also causing concern, and some research suggests that these chemicals might have negative environmental and health effects.
What can you do? Are their alternatives out there? Check out Ecovative Design for greensulate, which is insulation that helps you reduce the amount of energy used to build your home, and ecocradle, which is to replace Styrofoam in packaging.
Its become more apparent to me lately that we as a society throw a lot into the trash that can be recycled and isn’t, that cannot be recycled or that takes many many years to decompose. None of these are good options. Before you consume, please think about what you are throwing into the trash.