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The Dangers of Styrofoam

The Dangers of StyrofoamI think Styrofoam is disgusting.  In fact, I'm surprised it's even in use.  It's been almost twenty years since McDonald's (of all places!) stopped using Styrofoam for their Big Macs...why have so few other places followed suit?  Even Jamba Juice, which promotes itself as a healthy place, and Dunkin Donuts, which even uses fair trade coffee in their espresso drinks, are still clinging on to the Styrofoam.  It's really disheartening to see places continue to use it.

Styrofoam was created in the 1970s by Dow Chemical.  It's made of polystyrene, which is a type of petroleum-based plastic.   Styrofoam is actually a trademark of Dow for extruded polystyrene foam, but people in the U.S. use it as a generic term for expanded polystyrene foam.

Did you take home a doggie bag from your favorite restaurant last night?  And did it come in Styrofoam?  Well, don't microwave that spaghetti and meatballs in the Styrofoam container!  Because of the heating and cooling process, if it gets hot enough, it's been believed that Styrofoam can break down when put in the microwave, with all sorts of toxins entering your food.

There has also been concern about the trace presence of Styrofoam's production chemicals remaining in the final product which can be toxic. (i.e., benzene is carcinogenic).  There's more info on that on the EPA website.

Additionally, some scientists believe that producing styrofoam can emits ozone into the air at unsafe levels.

The most horrifying thing about Styrofoam?  It does not biodegrade.   The California Coastal Commission says that it's a huge component in marine debris.  It is also bouyant, so they can just float around waterways indefinitely.  A hideous, unneccessary, and perpetual eyesore that is terrible for our environment.

Most people don't know this, but Styrofoam actually IS recyclable.  Curbside recycling usually won't take it, so you'll have to find local places to drop it off.  Check out the search database at to find a recycling center near you that will take Styrofoam.  Search by its generic name "polystyrene."

Looking to stay away from Styrofoam?  Bring your own containers to restaurants and coffee shops.  (Don't forget to avoid that BPA) Don't use Styrofoam peanuts to package things...there are many alternatives available!  And lastly, if you're still accumulating Styrofoam, check out the Earth911 database.