FAQs ABOUT STYROFOAM

How do I know if something is made of polystyrene?


Some items made of polystyrene are marked with recycling code #6. StyrofoamTM products such as cups or plates are typically labeled or described as expanded polystyrene or #6EPS. Other polystyrene products include plastic cups, lids, straws and utensils.




Is Styrofoam safe for use in our schools?


Children are often more vulnerable to toxic chemicals and pollutants. Because their bodies are still developing, their ability to defend against or break down toxic chemicals is weaker. Despite this fact, most Norwalk schools use Styrofoam™ trays for student meals to the tune of 1.3 million a year.




Is it safe to microwave food or beverage in polystyrene containers?


No. When heated, hazardous compounds may leach out of the container into the food or beverage about to be consumed.




What about marine pollution?


Even when disposed of properly, polystyrene foam can be blown from disposal sites. Lightweight and buoyant, polystyrene travels easily through gutters and storm drains, eventually reaching Long Island Sound and the ocean. Pollution of waterways and waterfronts not only negatively affects our quality of life, it breaks down into microplastics, which are ingested by marine life. Microplastics have been found in everything from table salt to bottled water.




Is Styrofoam recyclable?


Styrofoam is not accepted for recycling in Connecticut.




What happens when polystyrene is sent to landfills?


Deprived of water and oxygen needed to break down, polystyrene takes at least 500 years to decompose. What’s more, it releases methane gases that have over 20 times the ozone destroying potency as CO2.




What happens when polystyrene is incinerated?


When burned, polystyrene releases both carbon monoxide as well as 90 different hazardous chemicals. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), carbon monoxide can cause fainting, dizziness and nausea and sometimes death if exposure goes undetected. Carbon monoxide is one of the most dangerous chemicals that’s released as a result of burning polystyrene.




What happens when hot food or beverages come into contact with polystyrene?


Polystyrene contains styrene and benzene, suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins that are hazardous to humans. Polystyrene food containers leach styrene when they come into contact with warm food or drink, alcohol, oils and acidic foods. Exposure to styrene can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, the upper respiratory tract, and the gastrointestinal tract. Chronic exposure can result in more severe effects including depression, headaches, fatigue, weakness, hearing loss, and disrupted kidney function.




What’s the impact of polystyrene production on the climate crisis?


A 1986 EPA report on solid waste named polystyrene manufacturing as one of the largest creators of hazardous waste in the United States.

Polystyrene products are made with petroleum, a non-sustainable, non-renewable and heavily polluting resource.

One form of polystyrene (extruded polystyrene) is usually made with hydro chlorofluorocarbons blowing agents, which increases ozone depletion at a rate 1,000 times greater than carbon dioxide.




Is polystyrene regulated?


A number of communities have banned polystyrene foam in food service products, including take-out containers, bowls, plates, trays, cups, and cutlery. The growing number includes New York, NY; Takoma Park, MD; Nantucket, MA; Seattle, WA; Washington DC; Miami Beach, FL; Minneapolis, MN; Portland, OR; Baltimore, MD, San Francisco, CA; the State of Maine.




When did the Styrofoam Ban Ordinance in Norwalk take effect?


Norwalk's Styrofoam Ban took effect on April 22, 2020 - Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary. Click here to read the ordinance.




Are there acceptable alternatives to Styrofoam ?


Yes. Instead of Styrofoam, food can be served on reusable plates, cups and bowls made of stainless steel, ceramic, bamboo or glass. Food can also be stored in glass, ceramic or stainless steel in lieu of plastic. Recycled paper is another option.

For shipping, biodegradable peanuts made out of corn or wheat can be used in place of Styrofoam packing peanuts. Other options include paper and a Styrofoam substitute made of mushrooms. Read more here about this alternative.




What should I do with Styrofoam?


The best way to protect yourself and the environment is to avoid its use in the first place. Skip purchasing polystyrene products or items that are packaged in polystyrene. Press your favorite takeout place for an alternative to Styrofoam or bring your own containers when ordering out or taking home leftovers.




What is polystyrene?


Polystyrene is another type of plastic. When expanded into the foam material known as Styrofoam (trademarked by Dow Chemical), it is typically used as packaging (peanuts) for fragile products, coolers and insulating hot food and beverages.





Frequently Asked Questions

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