What we have learned about polystyrene:
Polystyrene (plastic type #6), commonly known as styrofoam, is bad for public health and the environment. It is made from styrene, a known neurotoxicant and reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen (upgraded to this status June 2011 from its previous status of being a suspected human carcinogen). Styrene is found in all human fatty tissue, meaning we have all been exposed to it, even newborn babies. For this reason alone, we think polystyrene should not be used for serving food to school children. But there’s more. It turns out polystyrene has a high carbon footprint as it’s made from fossil fuels. In addition, unlike other types of plastics such as beverage bottles (PET, #1) and milk jugs (HDPE, #2), its recycling level is virtually zero. It is also nonbiodegradable. This means polystyrene that is littered will end up eventually in our watersheds and the world’s oceans where it can have devastating impacts on water life.
Plus, the disposable polystyrene trays cost our school thousands of dollars a year. Based on 6 cases a week used, we calculated that the County spends $3,497 to supply Piney Branch Elementary with disposable trays and another $1,522 to provide the school with disposable plastic cutlery each year.
Fortunately there are many alternatives to polystyrene used in food service ware and many communities supporting alternatives. There are about two dozen communities that have banned in one way or another the use of polystyrene for food service ware. Yeah! We are not alone! Alternative products include washable ware (the best environmental choice!) and compostable products such as paper trays or corn-based cutlery.
For more information, please go to Links on Polystyrene.