Polysytrene products are everywhere, from coffee cup lids to straws, cutlery and cups (even SOLO cups). Expanded polystyrene foam—commonly known as "Styrofoam"—is basically polystyrene that's expanded with air. You can identify polystyrene and expanded polystyrene foam by the number "6" on the bottom of a product.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans use 25 billion expanded polystyrene coffee cups each year—and many of their lids are polystyrene, too. When you Nix the 6, you pledge to refuse these single-use plastics.
Through our 2017 #foamfree Action Campaign, thousands of people pledged to refuse single-use polystyrene plastic.
However, in many places “foam” is not recognized as polystyrene. In 2018, we rebranded our campaign as Nix the 6, accompanied by the #sneakystyrene hashtag.
What’s the big deal about polystyrene?
Why is polystyrene a problem?
Polystyrene and expanded polystyrene foam—better known as "Styrofoam"—are plastics made from styrene, a known animal carcinogen that was found "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" by the National Toxicology Program and "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer; it is also listed as a carcinogen under California's Proposition 65 in 2016.
The EPA ranks polystyrene manufacturing as the fifth worst global industry in terms of hazardous waste creation. These plastics are difficult to recycle and are even banned from many recycling programs because of contamination programs.
The EPA reported that less than 2% of polystyrene was recycled in 2013. In our 2016 Plastics BAN List study, we found that polystyrene is one of the most common forms of plastic pollution in the environment.
Is it the new microbead?
Is it the new microbead?
We have seen firsthand how individual actions can snowball into massive change. Our 2012 study that discovered plastic microbeads in the Great Lakes inspired a movement, culminating with major corporate phase out—including L’Oreal and Johnson & Johnson—and statewide bans on both coasts. In 2015, President Obama signed a federal microbeads ban into law, making them illegal nationwide!
Like microbeads, polystyrene plastics are environmental hazards. In the “New Plastics Economy” report produced by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, leaders of 15 global brands—including Dow Chemical, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble— recommended the phase-out of polystyrene.
With local polystyrene bans on ballots and a statewide ban being considered in California, this is the year to join the movement. We did it before with microbeads—now it's time for a polystyrene ban!