The Ugly Truth About Polystyrene

Alfredo Cano

Author

If you’re a restaurant owner still using polystyrene containers for takeout packaging, you likely already know it’s not sustainable. Polystyrene has long been known as one of the most environmentally harmful materials out there—and yet some still use it because it’s also the cheapest.
Perhaps if we understood the true extent of polystyrene’s damaging characteristics, there would be no debate, discussion, or hesitation about whether to use it.
Continuing to use polystyrene harms the planet and people’s health and could easily be costing your customers.
Today, we’ll expose the ugly truth about polystyrene and what you can do to be part of the solution.

What is Polystyrene?

Polystyrene is a type of plastic made by polymerizing styrene. This process forms a base product for making appliances, toys, auto parts, electronics, plant pots, and more.
Polystyrene is also made into a foam (aka Styrofoam) frequently used to make food packaging, egg cartons, packing peanuts, cushioning, and building insulation. It’s ubiquitous. A few years ago, you would be hard-pressed to avoid it. Luckily, alternatives available today may help us stem the tide and prevent us from doing further harm to ourselves and the environment.

Polystyrene clamshell

Damaging Characteristics of Polystyrene

Along with other environmental toxins, many studies underscore polystyrene’s contribution to developmental disorders, auto-immune diseases, cancer, neurological disorders, chronic fatigue, depression, and more.

While it may be impossible to determine the precise scope of what polystyrene does to humans, one thing is clear: people exposed to it have a higher incidence of many of the abovementioned issues.

Polystyrene Disposal Issues

Environmentally, polystyrene is one of the most significant pollution sources. Polystyrene manufacturing is the fifth largest producer of toxic waste in the US. It’s also a major source of litter, poisoning waterways, and oceans, and lingering in our landfills where it can leach into drinking water, poison wildlife, and threaten land arability forever.

The trouble is, there is no way to dispose of it safely. It does not break down and will continue to poison its environment over time. We can’t even incinerate it because styrene fumes harm the lungs and the ozone layer, making the sun’s UV rays even more damaging and contributing to climate change. 

And while many assume that some foam containers can be recycled (evidenced by the recycling symbol on the product itself), it can contaminate entire loads you put out in the bin each week.

Compostable Alternatives to Polystyrene

None of the above facts are secret. Polystyrene is widely known as a hazardous substance. It leaches into food and other consumables it contacts. We inhale it through the air and absorb it through the skin when we touch it. Extended exposure increases your risk for chronic disease, congenital disabilities, and premature death.

We can’t control what others do, but we do have a choice. Every time we purchase a foam product, we are supporting an industry that’s doing irreparable harm to the people and things we hold most dear.

But it’s likewise with compostable products. Choosing compostable packaging is a great place to start. The more sustainable choices we make, the closer we get to a better world.

Stop using foam products! Offer our compostable packaging alternatives instead. Every small change you make contributes to a more sustainable future. Be part of the solution.

Better products, better planet.
Start with greenprint.

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