The product that we know as Styrofoam is actually the brand name by the Dow Chemical company for the product called 'expanded polystyrene' (EPS). While EPS was thought to be the be-all, end-all answer for many of the packaging problems of the world, this product has become a major problem when it comes to recycling. No one wants to recycle EPS and it ends up in our landfills with a long-term lifespan to break down, causing additional problems in the process.
Dow Chemical does not have a history of caring about the earth or people of the earth (no matter what their commercials tell you). If you have ever been present to watch how the polystyrene product is made, you will see that it starts out as an almost liquidy foam that is sprayed or formed into whatever packing area is needed. Other types of polystyrene foam is actually the compacting of small beads of the stuff into compressed forms. Anyone that has tried to break the latter apart is already aware that these little ‘beads’ fall apart and end up everywhere. The production of polystyrene is point blank wasteful. It uses natural resources to make and most locations won’t recycle the stuff.
There are only so many craft projects that you can do with the larger polystyrene foam. I have made a major effort in saving the ‘peanut’ variety as well as larger pieces and re-use them in the boxes that I send to family and friends. I have contacted our county waste management company and they don’t recycle polystyrene. I have, however, badgered them enough that they agreed to research alternative processes.
If you are lucky enough to get your community to be on board with you in getting a recycling process for the polystyrene, you need to be aware that it will not include the ‘contaminated’ variety. These are polystyrene packages that have come into contact with food or that contain tape or staples. If you live in Canada, you have an organization that is on your side and will assist you in getting a polystyrene recycling program going. In the U.S. the Polystyrene Packaging Association does list some of the companies and organizations that will accept polystyrene waste.
The good news is, more manufacturers are now using recycled paper and pressed cardboard for packaging. What you can do as a consumer is to make note of any products that you purchase that is using polystyrene and drop the manufacturer a quick email. It doesn’t take a lot of your time but these companies are interested in making the consumer happy. Being a ‘green’ company will also make them more popular. Another thing that you can do is take a look at your grocery store. If they are still packaging meats in polystyrene, talk to the manager or drop the corporate office a quick email. More and more grocery stores are branding themselves with the certified organic as well as ‘green’ branding and this will move this topic to the forefront.
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