IT’S THE SPONGY STUFF THAT MAKES UP YOUR COFFEE CUP AND LID. BUT POLYSTYRENE ISN’T JUST ANY PLASTIC.
Toxic styrene—the primary component of polystyrene—is proven to be carcinogenic to animals, and is a probable human carcinogen. It can migrate from containers into food and drinks when it comes in contact with fatty or acidic foods, and when heated—like for your coffee or take out.
How Styrofoam is made is also dangerous to the environment: Although the industry has phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), polystyrene production releases greenhouse gases that harm the ozone layer and contribute to global warming. The EPA ranks its manufacturing as the fifth worst global industry in terms of hazardous waste creation.
Polystyrene is rarely recycled, as it’s difficult for most facilities to process it. Most of the time, we throw it away:
AMERICANS TOSS 25 BILLION STYROFOAM CUPS EACH YEAR.
Typically, it becomes trash—but because it’s so lightweight and breaks easily, Styrofoam often falls into storm drains and is washed out to sea. In fact, one California study showed Styrofoam is the second most common form of plastic found on our beaches. That's a serious problem for humans and other animals.
But the thing to remember about styrofoam is: You can avoid it. It’s simple: Pledge to go #foamfree by avoiding products that contain polystyrene (PS) or show the number “6” in the chasing arrow symbol.
Here are three more #foamfree actions you can take today:
- If you own a product made from the stuff, don’t just toss it in the trash. Research whether or not your local recycling facility accepts polystyrene; if not, take it to a toxic waste processing facility.
- Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop on the fight against Styrofoam!
- Check out our Plastic-Free Shopping Guide for options on how to live without disposable coffee cups.
National Toxicology Program, “Report on Carcinogens, Thirteenth Edition” Department of Health and Human Services.
Toxnet, “Human Heath Effects of Styrene” Toxicology Data Network.
Climate for Action, “Choosing an Alternative to Polystyrene” EPA.
Carry Your Cup, “Get the Facts.” CYC.
Beach Cleanup Data, “Data from San Diego Beach Cleanups” San Diego Coastkeeper.