Eco-Tips: How To Dispose of Styrofoam Responsibly?

To responsibly dispose of Styrofoam, it’s best to find a recycling center that accepts it, or reduce its use and choose eco-friendly alternatives.

Before discuss about how to dispose of styrofoam, it’s better to know that we all have a responsibility to ensure that our environment is kept safe and clean. And, one of our biggest concerns is styrofoam waste. Styrofoam is one of the biggest waste materials that may harm the environment.

Moreover, properly disposing of Styrofoam can be a challenge because this material is not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to break down. Its light weight and resistance to moisture make it a challenging material to recycle.

Styrofoam is a common material used in packaging, insulation, and in many other products, but it can be difficult to dispose of properly.  In this article, our Ecomaniac team will provide you with tips on how to dispose of Styrofoam in a responsible way.

Therefore, you can help protect the environment and reduce the negative environmental impact of this material.

Key Takeaways
  • Styrofoam is not biodegradable and poses significant environmental risks.
  • Disposal in regular trash contributes to landfill problems.
  • Recycling Styrofoam is challenging due to its composition.
  • Upcycling or reusing Styrofoam is a recommended alternative.
  • Reducing Styrofoam use and seeking eco-friendly substitutes is crucial.

What is Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is a brand name for a type of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam, which is a lightweight, rigid, and thermally-insulating plastic material made from petroleum-based products. It is commonly used for insulation, packaging, and other applications.

Let’s take a look at the following paragraphs to give you better understanding.

how to dispose of styrofoam
What are Styrofoams Made of?

1. What are Styrofoams Made of? 

Styrofoam is made of polystyrene, a synthetic plastic polymer made from the monomer styrene. The styrene monomers are derived from petroleum byproducts. The polystyrene foam is then expanded into foam and molded into the desired shape.

In addition, Styrofoam can be toxic to humans, especially when inhaled. Inhalation of toxic chemicals from Styrofoam can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Long-term exposure to toxic chemicals from styrofoam can also cause damage to the nervous system, liver, and kidneys.

2. Harmful Chemical in Styrofoam 

Styrofoam is a type of plastic that contains a chemical called styrene. Styrene is a known carcinogen and has been linked to a number of health issues including cancer, hormonal disruption, and neurological damage. These chemicals can also pollute the environment and be ingested by animals, leading to a variety of health problems.

In addition, Styrofoam releases a number of other hazardous waste, such as benzene, toluene, and formaldehyde, when heated. These chemicals can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and can have a negative effect on human health.

3. What Does Using Expired Styrofoam Do?

One of the issues of using an outdated Styrofoam product is material shrinkage. Most of the time, utilizing an old can of foam will result in subpar performance. The foam won’t expand to its usual size, or its components won’t expand as intended since they’ll be sticky and drippy.

What Does Using Expired
What Does Using Expired Styrofoam Do?

Using expired Styrofoam also can be hazardous and can cause health risks. Expired Styrofoam can contain polystyrene, which breaks down into styrene, a known carcinogen. The styrene can also leach into food or drinks, making them unsafe to consume.

4. How Many Styrofoam We ire Using?

The United States produces the most waste in the entire world, and its landfills are overflowing at an alarming rate. Furthermore, thirty percent of landfill space is taken up by Styrofoam and Styrofoam products. According to A Recycling Revolution, this future packaging accounts for one-third of the average waste. In landfills around the US, 1,369 tons of Styrofoam are dumped each day.

Moreover, 40 percent of the world’s rubbish is produced by 5% of the population. In fact, each person disposes of on average 5 pounds of waste per day. This amounts to nearly a ton of waste per person every year, all of which is finally disposed of in landfills.

5. Are Styrofoam Recyclable?

Unfortunately, not all Styrofoam is recyclable. Most recycling centers do not accept Styrofoam and non-recyclable items due to the way it breaks down and its inability to be recycled. However, some centers may accept clean Styrofoam packaging that is free from food residue.

Since polystyrene foam is made of petroleum, these non-recyclable items do include characteristics that allow for styrofoam recycling. But styrofoam is also 90% or more air, which makes it heavy and lightweight. Due to these characteristics, the collecting and transportation costs associated with styrofoam recycling frequently outweigh the environmental advantages.

How Long Does Styrofoam Take to Decompose?

Styrofoam cannot be recycled and does not biodegrade. Styrofoam cannot be recycled and takes 500 years to break down, thus the Styrofoam cups that are disposed of in landfills will remain there. The potential for a significant ecological impact is high given the amount of Styrofoam cups created each day, which could round the globe if stacked end to end.

how to dispose of styrofoam
How Long Does Styrofoam Take to Decompose?

Moreover, Styrofoam is a plastic foam made from polystyrene, which is a petroleum-based material. It does not decompose naturally in the environment, and it takes hundreds of years to break down. The breakdown of Styrofoam is mainly due to physical processes such as fragmentation and photodegradation.

Styrofoam Environmental Problems

Did you know that one of the largest risks to the public’s health is the use of Styrofoam cups and takeout containers? Styrofoam is a serious hazard to people, the environment, and animals in addition to being a dangerous air pollution. Let us explain more to raise your awareness in how to dispose of Styrofoam responsibly.

1. Landfill Problems

Styrofoam is not biodegradable, meaning it will remain in the environment indefinitely if not recycled or disposed of properly. Around the world, 30 percent of landfills are filled with Styrofoam products. Every day, 1,369 tons of Styrofoam are buried in landfills in the United States. This number should worry everyone because landfills are quickly filling up.

2. Marine Life Contamination

One of the most dangerous wastes now in use, Styrofoam has a severe effect on the natural balance of our planet. Styrofoam can cause the death of marine life if ingested, as it does not dissolve in water and cannot be easily digested.

Normally, Styrofoam items easily shatter into little fragments that might suffocate sea creatures.

Marine Life Contamination
Marine Life Contamination

3. Hazardous Pollutants

Styrofoam is made from toxic chemicals such as styrene and ethylene that can be released into the air and water when heated. Moreover, polystyrene can leach pollutants such as styrene and benzene into food and drinks. The same container emits dangerous air pollutants that contaminate landfills and weaken the ozone layer when it is exposed to sunshine.

4. Energy Usage

Manufacturing Styrofoam requires a great deal of energy, which contributes to air pollution and global warming. Large volumes of ozone are released into the atmosphere during the production of Styrofoam, posing health and environmental risks.

The Right Ways on How to Dispose Styrofoam

Styrofoam is not composting materials, so the best way to dispose of it is to take it to a foam drop-off center. Many cities have foam drop-off locations that accept clean Styrofoam for recycling. You can also check with your local recycling center to see if they accept Styrofoam.

how to dispose of styrofoam
The Right Ways on How to Dispose Styrofoam

Here are the right ways on how to dispose of Styrofoam properly.

1. Throw Away Styrofoam

First, discard any materials that are still adhering to the Styrofoam. Next, cut the large Styrofoam into manageable-sized pieces. You may be able to pack more in one bag than you think since they will fit easily into a garbage bag. Finally, place the Styrofoam in your dumpster or trash can.

2. Recycle Foam

Confirm you have Styrofoam that is just white. In general, only pure, white packaging foam has a good probability of being recycled. You may also find the recycle foam with recycling triangle and the number 6 are stamped inside.

If your Styrofoam satisfies these requirements, contact your neighborhood recycling program to learn where you can drop it off at the recycling bin.

3. Upcycle Your Styrofoam

Due to its lightweight, large Styrofoam is a fantastic material for costumes and decorations. Make templates for the appropriate forms on the Styrofoam, then cut them out. Decorate these inexpensive yet sturdily-looking props and stage backgrounds with paint or markers.

Moreover, use the peanuts you have if you intend to mail packages. Or, donate them to a local shipping store if you don’t need them.

How to Dissolve Styrofoam at Home?

Styrofoam is constructed of polystyrene and foam, and acetone is a comparatively non-polar solvent. This is opposed to water which is extremely polar. Moreover, acetone can dissolve the carbon-hydrogen bonds in Styrofoam because of their comparable polarity.

All you have to do is add some acetone to a bowl, then add packing peanuts, foam chunks, Styrofoam beads, or even a Styrofoam cup. Similar to how sugar dissolves in boiling water, Styrofoam will dissolve in acetone.

Styrofoam Environmentally Friendly Alternatives

By no means is Styrofoam an environmentally beneficial or sustainable solution. We must keep looking into real, sustainable alternatives to polystyrene products in order to completely eliminate its use in light of consumer and industry opposition.

To get you going, we’ve compiled a list of the best types of styrofoam alternatives and discussed their advantages and disadvantages.

1. Cruz Foam

Cruz Foam offers an earth-friendly plastic alternative to Styrofoam. The foam is made with naturally-sourced biopolymers. Biopolymers come from nature, unlike the synthetic chemicals used to make Styrofoam, but they nonetheless possess the same technical characteristics.

However, Cruz Foam takes around 4 months to completely decompose in a commercial composting environment. Although it is slow to biodegrade, Cruz Foam has produced high-quality fertilizer with an average biodegradation rate of 97.9% in soil lab testing and no negative effects on compost quality.

Styrofoam Environmentally Friendly Alternatives
Styrofoam Environmentally Friendly Alternatives

2. PLA Lined Paper

Styrofoam food packaging can be replaced with lined paper made of Polylactic Acid (PLA), which is a great sustainable option. It is a corn starch-based plant resin used to make compostable containers and liners for cups or packages to prevent water damage.

You may use it in the microwave or the oven, and it can tolerate temperatures between 32°F and 185°F. It is a solution for hot and cold products.

Meanwhile, heat transfer is subpar on PLA lined paper. In contrast to a Styrofoam cup, which shields your hands from burns, a PLA lined paper cup gets hot and is therefore impossible to use without covering your hands.

3. Edible Packing Peanuts

You may swap out Styrofoam packing peanuts for compostable ones manufactured from corn, grain sorghum, and other crops like wheat, however they might not be as sweet as natural peanuts. After a single usage, you can toss them onto your compost piles because they dissolve in water and leave no toxic residue. Additionally, they don’t have an electrostatic charge, so they won’t adhere to your clothing.

Since edible packing peanuts are heavier than conventional Styrofoam peanuts, shipping prices will inevitably rise. Because crops like maize occupy space that could have been utilized for growing food, it is also more expensive to produce.

4. Plantable Packaging

Plantable packaging integrates seeds allowing users to bury the future packaging in the soil. It is a completely compostable and plantable product thanks to innovative technologies. Herbs and flowers bloom as it deteriorates! Simply bury the box one inch below the surface after soaking it in water as a customer.

However, plantable packaging is not a suitable restaurant solution because it cannot withstand water. Certainly, there is capacity for it in product packaging, but there are limits on size.

5. Mineral Filled Polypropylene

Mineral Filled Polypropylene Products (MFFP) significantly reduce the amount of plastic needed because they contain 50% less plastic than conventional polypropylene goods. It is made with mineral substances instead of plastic. It works well for both hot and cold foods, and it can withstand temperatures of up to 240°F in the microwave.

Although it decreases the overall volume of plastic, it does not get rid of it. This is only a short-term solution. Additionally, it cannot be recycled, making it a subpar alternative.

Final Thought

When disposing of Styrofoam, it is important to remember that the best option is reducing and reusing styrofoam whenever possible. While some forms of styrofoam can be recycled, other forms may need to be disposed of in the regular trash.

Ultimately, it is important to be mindful of the environmental impact of Styrofoam and take steps to reduce its use and make sure it is disposed of in a way that is safe and sustainable. Hopefully you can get fruitful knowledge after reading this article.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How do you get rid of large amounts of styrofoam?

The best way to get rid of large amounts of styrofoam is to find a recycling center that accepts it. Many local governments and recycling centers have programs in place to recycle styrofoam, so it is important to check with your local waste management provider to find out what options are available.

If recycling is not an option, styrofoam can be disposed of in the trash, though this is not the most environmentally-friendly option.

How wasteful is styrofoam?

Styrofoam is highly wasteful and bad for the environment. It is not  composting materials and can take up to 500 years to decompose. Additionally, Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic that releases toxic chemicals when burned.

If you don’t know how to dispose of styrofoam properly, you can check for more tips in the article above.

What liquid dissolves styrofoam?

Acetone is the most typical liquid that can dissolve Styrofoam. Styrofoam can also disintegrate in a variety of other solvents, including toluene and paint thinners. Acetone can dissolve the carbon-hydrogen bonds in Styrofoam because of their comparable polarity.

Should Styrofoam go in the recycle bin?

No, Styrofoam should not be put in a recycle bin because it is not normally recyclable. For proper disposal, it needs to go in the garbage. All Styrofoam must be disposed of in the garbage bin because putting it in the recycling bin will contaminate the entire bin.