The main chemical component of Styrofoam is a chemical known as Styrene. If exposed to styrene directly there can be effects to the eyes, digestive system, and even the central nervous system. This is especially troubling for anyone who has ever put a Styrofoam container into the microwave. The toxic chemicals in Styrofoam can leak out of the container and into your food. As a detriment to the environment, Styrofoam is harmful from the beginning. To start, Styrofoam is manufactured using petroleum, which is a non sustainable energy source. If the product is not recycled, thoughtlessly thrown down in the woods or on the side of the highway, it can become dangerous to any animals in the area. Animals will gnaw on the Styrofoam and it will seriously harm their digestive systems.
Styrofoam (AKA polystyrene) falls into a grey area when it comes to recycling. It is tough to get rid of, and it is everywhere. Typically, Styrofoam is put to no use at it is simply put into a landfill at the state's expense. Furthermore, as you have probably already noticed, disregarded pieces of Styrofoam can be found in the outdoors all the time. Styrofoam is an especially detrimental form of litter as it is not biodegradable. It is incredibly important to recycle Styrofoam or avoid using it all together. It can be harmful to both you and the environment around you.
How to Recycle your Excess Styrofoam
Take your Styrofoam out of the trashcan. Your garbageman will not accept your trash if they see Styrofoam in it. Besides, Styrofoam already takes up 25% of California landfills, where it will do nothing but take up space.
Your neighborhood recycling center also may not accept Styrofoam. Some centers may accept Styrofoam, but they are harder to find. If you do find a center that will accept your excess Styrofoam, odds are that they will not accept any that held food or medical products. Additionally, make sure that the Styrofoam is free of any additional products (tape/labels/glue). Unexpected chemicals can disrupt recycling. Visit Earth911.com to find a recycling center near you.
Save your Styrofoam in a safe place. Packing companies use Styrofoam all the time to ensure the integrity of what you are shipping, you can do the same. Next time you open a box that has Styrofoam protecting pieces, don't just throw it away. Put the Styrofoam in a plastic bag and use it the next time you have to ship something. The same goes for packing peanuts. Just make sure that you are keeping your excess Styrofoam away from your food and medical products.
Contact your local post office. Many UPS stores will accept your packing peanuts and even your bulk Styrofoam. Certain companies will even pay you for your excess Styrofoam. The American Chemistry council has a database of people willing to pay near you. These buyers will turn your useless Styrofoam into future products: lunch trays, cups, and bicycle helmets, among others.
Purchase some Limonene, an orange extract, on the internet. When you spray the product on the Styrofoam it will dissolve into a gooey substance that can be used as super glue.
Ellis Martin recently graduated from Brown University, where he wrote for the Brown Daily Herald. Martin has many articles published on eHow, mostly concerning medical topics. He has been writing these articles since the summer of 2009.