Overuse of Polystyrene

March 5, 2012
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Polystyrene, more commonly known by it's marketed name, Styrofoam, is a product used in a variety of different ways. From coffee cups, to packing materials, polystyrene makes up a large portion of America's waste. It is estimated that styrofoam fills up around 30 percent of landfills.
A major disadvantage of styrofoam is that it takes an estimated 500 years to decompose, so long that it is considered non-biodegradable.

The SSA cafeteria uses styrofoam lunch trays, plates and cups (as well as plastic cutlery). Consequently, everyday, we are putting hundreds of trays into landfills. For example, if 400 students were buying lunch at the cafeteria everyday (less than half of the student body). That's 400 trays in the landfills per day, 2, 000 per week, 12, 000 per month, 38, 000 per semester, 76,000 per year. This number could be reduced to zero if we replace the styrofoam with reusable lunch trays, or at least biodegradable ones.

Every day, 1,369 tons of Styrofoam goes into US landfills. Not only does styrofoam damage the environment but it can also leak chemicals from its composition into foods it holds. SSA is setting a negative example to the community and to future generations by encouraging such carelessness of pollution.

While styrofoam trays are considerably cheaper and make cleanups easier for cafeteria workers, purchasing a few hundred reusable trays means not having to purchase thousands of Styrofoam ones. The convenient price is unjustifiable when considering the health risk of students and the environment.

When in contact with heated food, chemicals are released into the food and can cause health problems (risk of cancer, and problems in reproductive systems). Styrofoam is made of polystyrene which does not decompose, and since only 10-15% of it recycled, it severely threatens the environment. When consumed, Styrofoam can choke, suffocate, starve, and kill animals. The majority of used Styrofoam goes into landfills (making up 25-30 % of them), a small percentage of it is incinerated. When burned at lower temperatures, toxins are released into the air causing more health issues when inhaled; when burned in professional incinerators at higher temperatures, carbon dioxide is released (a major contributor to global warming). There is no way to get rid of styrofoam without damaging the environment.

By using reusable lunch trays and getting rid of disposable Styrofoam ones, SSA can significantly reduce their impact on the environment and set a good example for other schools and future generations.

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