Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Ditch Styrofoam This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By


     What would you do if you realized that by drinking from a Styrofoam cup, you are contributing to the demise of the environment and endangering wildlife and humans alike? Most people do not consider the effects that Styrofoam, or polystyrene, can have because of its widespread availability. Not using Styrofoam products, however, would improve the health of the world. Restaurants in particular should use something else for plates, cups and take-out packaging since it is actually dangerous.

One reason restaurants should stop using Styrofoam is that it is not the most economical or health-conscious option. Paper could be used instead and is usually less expensive. It is also biodegradable, making it more environmentally friendly.

Styrofoam contains chemicals that over time and continuous exposure (even in small amounts) can build up in the body and cause many health issues. One U.S. EPA study of human fat biopsies found styrene residues in every single sample. Styrene is easily transferred from a container to your food or beverage. And the hotter or fattier the food, the more styrene it absorbs. This includes not only your doggie bag contents but meat on foam trays at grocery stores. It can disrupt hormone functions and cause low platelet counts, chromosome and lymphatic abnormalities, and create neurotoxic effects, which can lead to fatigue, insomnia and other diseases associated with the nervous system. It is even more dangerous for pregnant women because of the effects on the unborn.

Styrofoam is also not very sturdy. It easily breaks into small pieces that small children can choke on. Paper cups are a much better choice.

Styrofoam products are not biodegradable and contribute to landfill pile-ups because it never deteriorates. It also adds to the problem of where to put excess waste products. Waste may eventually have to be dumped into the ocean, which could contaminate the water.

Styrofoam also prevents more efficient recycling and better use of resources because it can only be thrown away (though many items could be reused) and must be produced continuously to meet demands, which uses nonrenewable energy and costs more. Paper can be recycled and is biode-gradable.

A third reason restaurants should use paper is that Styrofoam can be dangerous to wildlife. Animals can wander

into a landfill and try to eat it, which could result in them choking or becoming sick, thus reducing their populations. Animals can also be affected if more space is needed for landfills and their habitats need to be destroyed which could force them into residential areas. This is especially dangerous for humans, who can get diseases carried by the animals (including Lyme disease) and have car accidents because of animals running into the road.

Although there are many substantial reasons why restaurants should use paper products instead of Styrofoam, some still believe it is the best option. It does protect hands from the extreme heat or cold, but to compensate for lack of insulation in paper, cardboard protectors can be used. Styrofoam may at first seem like a better option, but paper is actually a much smarter choice.

Restaurants, if they must use disposable items, should consider changing from Styrofoam to paper. Styrofoam is damaging to the environment, wildlife, and the health of humans. The fact that it is not biodegradable and has harmful chemicals should convince people of its hazards. Paper is both biodegradable and safer for the environment, wildlife, and humans, and would be much better than Styrofoam.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




Join the Discussion


This article has 5 comments. Post your own!

Jessica said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 9:49 am:

This article is FULL of mis-information and exaggerations of the truth! 

Paper is actually more expensive than foam - and uses more energy to produce up front!

Foam cups are 100% recyclable, but plastic lined paper coffee cups are not!  If restaurants switch to paper, they will just create a DIFFERENT kind of trash, but trash none the less!  The litter-bugs are the problem - NOT the material of which the cups are made!

Again, foam is 100% recyclab... (more »)

 
Ben123 replied...
Nov. 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm :
^ This!

More paper cups than styrofoam cups end up in landfills. And you know what? In order for paper cups to hold liquid, they have to be coated in wax. 

Plus, paper cups are more expensive than styrofoam cups by 2.5 times. 

I see these articles bashing styrofoam as if there are viable alternatives currently. But I really don't see them. Paper is pricey and not as biodegradable as people might like to believe. If we follow good recycling pra... (more »)
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
EarthGirl said...
Mar. 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm:
I like this article. It gives good reasons to stop using a bad thing. Good job!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Nanette said...
May 9, 2010 at 5:28 pm:

Styrofoam is a trademark material made by the Dow Chemical Company--and they don't make cups, plates,egg trays, or other types of food packaging from it.

Most foam cups and food containers are made out of polystyrene, and therein lies the rubber biscuit.  The basic chemical component in the material (styrene) has the potential to leach into your food and then into you.

See article "Clouds In Your Coffee?Try Less Styro, More Foam.  Grinning Planet

 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
novellas1214 said...
May 4, 2009 at 2:14 pm:
was a great help
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback