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WNY GOING GREEN: STYROFOAM

Wednesday, 01.12.2011 / 11:19 AM / Blue & Gold Make Green
By Michael Jafari  - Graduate Assistant (2010)
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WNY GOING GREEN: STYROFOAM
Styrofoam is a useful product when it comes to protecting our most valuable possessions, but it can have a negative impact on the environment.

Styrofoam is a light substance made from polystyrene foam, which has superior insulating and buoyancy qualities.   It is an immensely versatile product.  Styrofoam is used for protecting fragile items, building materials, and thermal insulation. It is most commonly used as packing material, and it can take the shape of foam peanuts and polystyrene blocks.  

While Styrofoam is very useful in our daily lives, it is now recognized as a danger to our environment and our health.  According to research conducted by lovetoknow.com’s Kevin Casper, Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, which is manufactured with the use of petroleum and hydrofluorocarbons.  Its contents make the chemical very flammable, and it is filled with multiple carcinogens, which can have a negative impact on the ozone layer causing global warming.  In addition, Styrofoam is both non-biodegradable and non-water soluble, meaning that it does not dissolve over time.  There has been a tremendous accumulation of Styrofoam along our waterways and coastlines because it is lightweight and floats easily, becoming the main cause of marine debris.

Municipal recycling programs do not recycle Styrofoam because its weightless nature makes it worthless as scrap.  While there are no current recycling plants that handle Styrofoam, there are ways to handle the chemical-filled product.

The first way you can keep Styrofoam out of a landfill is by saving it for future use.  If you have space available at your home, you can store away Styrofoam and use it for future packaging.  By keeping it stored in a box, and then re-using it when needed, you are limiting further manufacturing of this harmful product, and you are recycling.  If you do not have the storage space, or if you don’t have any immediate plans to re-use your excess Styrofoam, then you can just drop it off at your local shipping retailer so it can be re-used.  Styrofoam can have plenty of use at several shipping companies such as UPS, Fed EX/Kinko’s, and the Postal Annex.

Another way you can properly handle Styrofoam is by donating it to local schools and senior centers.  You may not have much use for polystyrene products like lunch trays or foam cups, but students and senior citizens could make use of Styrofoam through arts and crafts projects. 

The Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers offers a mail-back program where you can send your Styrofoam to be re-used.  You can learn more about this option by clicking here.

Regardless of how we handle our extra Styrofoam, the most important task is to keep the harmful particle away from our land, air, and water.   Changing our throw-away mind set can make a big difference when trying to keep our country green.

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