2. Puts workers in danger. Tens of thousands of workers are exposed to styrene in the manufacture of rubber, plastics, and resins. Chronic exposure is associated with central nervous system symptoms, including headache, fatigue, weakness, impaired hearing, and depression as well as effects on kidney function. A new study (2016) reported excess numbers of deaths associated with lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among such workers.
[INFOGRAPHIC] Important Facts About Styrofoam
3. Lasts (almost) forever. It takes about 500 years for polystyrene to decompose in the environment. Since the vast majority of polystyrene is not recycled (see “What you can do”), our landfills are harboring a significant amount of polystyrene: by volume, 25 to 30 percent of landfill materials are plastics, including Styrofoam.
4. Contributes to air pollution and climate change. If polystyrene is burned or incinerated, it releases toxic carbon monoxide into the air. If you burn trash or have a fireplace, never ever burn polystyrene.
The manufacturing process for polystyrene foam also releases harmful hydrocarbons, which combine with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight and form a dangerous air pollutant at ground level called tropospheric ozone, which is associated with health effects such as wheezing, shortness of breath, nausea, asthma, and bronchitis.
5. Comes from a non-sustainable source. Polystyrene is made from petroleum, a non-sustainable product. This Styrofoam-like product is an environmental hazard from start to finish!
6. Harms wildlife. Polystyrene often makes its way into the environment, especially waterways. As it breaks down, the pieces are frequently consumed by both land and marine animals, causing blockage of their digestive system, choking, and death.
What You Can Do
• Recycle/repurpose! Polystyrene can be recycled in some areas. You can locate such recycling opportunities near you by going to Earth911 or checking with your local recycling companies or city/county recycling directory. Once you find a location or two, you may want to call ahead to make sure exactly what they accept. The packing polystyrene blocks are accepted by some facilities for repurposing into building materials.
If you work for a company that handles a significant amount of polystyrene, you might look for a facility that will accept large volumes of the material. In all cases, remove any labels, tape, and other items from the polystyrene that could contaminate the recycling process.
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