You see it every day. Those fluffy peanuts that cascade from packing boxes, those huge blocks of plastic foam that come with electronic equipment; those soda cups that litter our streets! It seems like everywhere you look, there's polystyrene, aka Styrofoam.
We know it isn't good for us. If something takes over a million years to break down, it puts a bit of a strain on your landfills. Not to mention animals can eat it and manufacturing it can cause pollutants to be released into the air.
Add the fact that Styrofoam derives from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, and you have a pretty good case for avoiding it altogether. However, it's also cheap and easy to produce so we won't be seeing the last of it anytime soon. In this article we'll look at some simple ways to deal with the 'foam in your home!
The first thing to do with the ubiquitous white stuff is to try and reuse it. You can save old packing peanuts and polystyrene blocks to use whenever you have something fragile to transport or put in the mail.
If you don't want to do that, you can call local shipping and delivering companies in your area and see if they'll accept it. If you live in an apartment, you can offer old peanuts and foam blocks to anyone who's moving out. Or why not try posting an ad on Craigslist?
You can also reuse Styrofoam around your house. There are many books and websites out there that offer suggestions for foam arts and crafts. If you're a gardener, you can put old peanuts or crumbled-up bits from Styrofoam blocks in your plant pots to assist with drainage.
You can even break down your Styrofoam in a biodegradable solvent and use it for a household adhesive. Obviously you want to avoid buying Styrofoam plates and cups, but if you do find yourself eating from foam dinnerware when you're in your favorite restaurant or out on a picnic, you can take the plates and cups home and wash them by hand before recycling them.
If you decide you want to recycle your Styrofoam, call your local Public Works department and check online for recycling companies that accept polystyrene. A lot of curbside programs won't take it, so be sure to do your homework. The website earth911.com has a search function that will help you to find recycling drop-offs and companies in your area or you can contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.
Their website at www.epspackaging.org also has a search function that can help you find a recycler. Or some Publix grocery stores include recycling bins for Styrofoam products; if there's a Publix in your neighborhood, you can try calling them. There are options other than the garbage can if you're willing to do a little research.
Listed below are some handy websites that can help you get started. Good luck and happy recycling!