Tuesday, January 11, 2011

dreaming of a 'foam free' world

I had this vivid dream recently in which I visited my alma mater and decided to eat in my old dining hall in this beautiful, classic, historic dorm. I was dismayed to find the wooden dining tables covered with bleached white paper tablecloths. The white china plates, real glasses and silverware that I remembered languished on shelves in favor of polystyrene (foam) plates and cups and plastic utensils. There was no clink of silverware on plates. No thud of glasses being set on tables. Just the quiet, annoying scraping of plastic on foam. Yuck.
I asked who was in charge and (this part is fuzzy) got his name. “Why spend all this money and create all this waste when you’ve got the real deal right here?” I’d tell him, gesturing toward the shelves of dishes. But somehow I woke up and never got to talk to him. Darn.

In the real world, I avoid No. 6 plastic polystyrene, aka Styrofoam™, at all costs. My kids will tell you that when they get the rare Chick-fil-A treat, drinks aren’t included in the deal because, “Mom hates Styrofoam™!”

Avoidance isn’t easy. On the rare occasion when we go to restaurants and order kids drinks, they come in a foam cup unless I remember to ask for real cups. And then there’s the food takeout. You ask for a box, and a foam clamshell appears. Thwarted again.

So, what’s wrong with polystyrene? Everything. It’s petroleum derived, hazardous to make, difficult to recycle, and will eventually end up in the landfill and never break down.

Someone I know spearheaded efforts to rid their college campus of polystyrene. Their campus is now 100 percent “foam free.” He was happy to detail to me their efforts to make it happen, and I’m adding it to my list of “causes” I’d love to have a part in changing. I would love to see our local coffee shops and restaurants commit to finding alternatives to polystyrene. It can be done!

In the meantime, what’s the solution, besides avoiding it? (A). Save it and make a unique (and buoyant!) sculpture. (B). Drop it off at Arthouse Noblesville, 195 S. 10th St. where it will be recycled in art classes. Or (C). visit www.earth911.com and type “polystyrene” in the search box and your zip for Indy locations that will recycle it. Unfortunately, Noblesville doesn’t recycle No. 6 at this time.

1 comment:

  1. Harmony said:
    Hi, regarding your article titled “Dreaming of a foam-free world”: Ok this opinion goes against conventional wisdom but don’t believe me and instead do the research and you will find that polystyrene is more environmentally friendly than wax coated paper.
    I referring to polystyrene drink cups and food containers compared to paper cups coated with wax on the inside (the kind used at all fast food places) the and paper products used to wrap sandwiches ( again the kind used at all fast food places).
    Understand that neither one is environmentally “friendly” however polystyrene takes far less energy to make. Considered what is required to make a paper cup. Trees have to be cut down with energy consuming machinery and transported to a mill for processing where huge quantities of water and chemicals are used to convert a tree into paper. Once made into a wax coated paper cup it cannot be easily recycled and when dumped in a land fill produces greenhouse gases. On the flip side polystyrene takes less energy to produce and is inert when dumped in a land fill. . .. ok my comments are a bit high level… but its enough to make a point , don’t believe me, do the research and you will find detailed information that documents the actual environmental impact of both.

    cachet said...
    i agree that wax coated paper cups aren't exactly environmentally friendly either, but foam takes up so much room, because it's so light and fluffy, and is so toxic and polluting to produce. what i'd like to see is reusable containers/mugs being used, instead of disposable. THAT is the way to go!