A World Of Plastic-Type 6

Peanuts, popcorn, foam, bubble wrap. It all sounds like fun and games to me. All these fun sounding items are packing materials made from Type 6 plastic. Type 6 is called polystyrene (PS), or you may know it by it’s trademarked name, ‘Styrofoam’. Since Polystyrene (PS) can be rigid or foamed you will find it in all sorts of places. PS is one of the few plastics that have lowered it’s usage percentage, down 9%. Let’s take a look at why it’s not as fun as it sounds.

PS  is most commonly used for protective packaging but you also find it as CD and DVD cases, electronic housing, medical products, plastic cutlery and toys. It’s also used a lot in food service items – cups, plates, bowls, takeout containers, meat trays and egg cartons. Being that these one use products are so light weight they are prone to fly away and land in gutters, sidewalks, parking lots, highways, wild spaces, creeks, rivers and the ocean where they pose threats to beauty, wildlife and natural ecosystems.

Styrofoam has a well deserved bad wrap. Cities all over the USA and the world are calling for it’s complete dismissal. Berkley and San Francisco were some of the first cities to ban styrofoam completely. It is now illegal to use styrofoam containers, clam shells, bowls, plates, cartons and cups in restaurants and for take out orders. For other reasons than their light weight these food vessels tend to become litter at an alarming rate and really have a horrible impact on the environment and folks in general.

PS not only wants to ruin the environment, it wants to ruin you. The various components of Styrofoam are known to cause health problems. Styrene, for instance, is a common concern with Styrofoam food containers where it is released into food when it is heated and could have toxic effects when consumed. People who are constantly exposed to Styrene in large quantities are known to exhibit skin and eye irritation, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, fatigue or problems with kidney functions. Better rethink that second cup-of-joe.

PS likes to keep it all fair and square so it contributes to air pollution as well. For instance, pentane is used as a blowing agent to create the foam-like structure of Styrofoam. During the blowing process, pentane is dispersed into the air where it contributes to smog. Also, millions of tons of Styrofoam are incinerated annually because of the difficulty of disposing or recycling it. The incinerated material ends up as airborne toxic ash.

In addition, according to the Earth Resource Foundation, $350,000 is spent annually to clean up litter in Orange County, California and approximately 25 percent of that is Styrofoam. Nationally, millions of dollars are spent to address this problem not only regarding litter but also wildlife management, pollution countermeasures and health care bills. This fun foam has got to go!!!

It’s no secret that I can’t wait until Styrofoam is no more. As a community cleaner finding this stuff in the waterways, parks and beaches makes me sad. And as it lays in the sun for months it falls into little pieces that can not even be collected. This pollution has an awful affect on the oceans and becomes food for the fish. They get sick and die or they get caught by a fisherman and become dinner for our families. It’s a vicious cycle so let’s put an end to it once and for all. Boycott Styrofoam in your town restaurants and save not only the environment, save your family.


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