Polystyrene: Continues to be a problem

Source: CV San

Day 40 – You might have enjoyed a hot cup of coffee from it, or sat down with a takeout meal in it, or even stored some cold beverages in it. Whatever the case might be, you have most likely used polystyrene, or what most of us call it, styrofoam. However, the cups, takeout packaging and insulted coolers are not made from styrofoam. Styrofoam is actually used in building insulation, thermal insulation and water barriers. What we call styrofoam is actually expanded polystyrene (EPS). EPS is made up of 95% air. Over the years, EPS has become a go-to in the creation of insulated products like coffee cups and coolers. And because it’s so light, it’s used for products that float like rafts and life jackets, and it’s often used in shipping to cushion products.

So, now that we know the difference, what is the problem with expanded polystyrene? EPS does not biodegrade, so it will stay in the environment for thousands of years. It’s not easily recycled. Also, the lightweight material is easily carried into waterways and oceans. A large portion of the Pacific garbage patch (a patch of garbage twice the size of Texas floating around in the northern Pacific Ocean) consists of EPS. 

The pandemic has not helped the fight against EPS. The increase of takeout containers and online shopping has brought much unwanted polystyrene into our lives . However, even without the pandemic, it seems like the occasional polystyrene wonders into our lives and then it’s a guessing game as to what to do with it.

Ideally, you would want to avoid expanded polystyrene. However, you have options when trying to rid yourself of this environmentally unfriendly product.

There is a container at the City Recycling Center at 6441 N. Ravenswood to drop off your EPS. There is also one located at 7575 S. Kostner Avenue (Dart Plant).

To find a facility near you, sometimes a simple Google search (Polystyrene recycling near me) will steer you in the right direction. Once there, your recycled expanded polystyrene can be extruded back into solid polystyrene pellets and then used to make items like coat hangers, picture frames, foodservice packaging and more.

Tomorrow, celebrating a food that is very friendly to the planet.