Is Styrofoam Biodegradable?

Also known as foamed polystyrene, styrofoam is a type of light plastic that contains up to 95% of air. As such, it is practically unsinkable and has strong insulation properties.

It is commonly used in packaging materials and drink holders. But despite all of styrofoam’s advantages, there is one thing that all environment lovers want to know about it – is it biodegradable?

Well, let’s find out!

Is styrofoam biodegradable?

No, styrofoam is not biodegradable. Since it can stay in landfills for up to 500 years, it just breaks down too slowly to be considered biodegradable.

How does styrofoam break down?

Since styrofoam is very stable, it is not easily broken down by chemicals.

It can however be broken down by sunlight through a process called photodegradation. But it takes a very long time for it to completely disappear.

Interestingly though, styrofoam can disintegrate into small particles.

Is styrofoam good for the environment?

Styrofoam poses a variety of environmental threats.

For one, its products can persist in the environment for hundreds of years.

Also, even when they do break down into small particles, they can easily be ingested by animals and water life, leading to choking and blocking of their digestive tracts.

Can styrofoam be recycled or reused?

Some styrofoam products can be reused without having to be remanufactured, a great example being packaging peanuts. However, to do this, you will have to check with your local packaging stores if they accept them. When it comes to recycling though, things are a little bleaker.

Although there are ways to recycle styrofoam, doing so is much more expensive than producing it in the first place. As such, more and more styrofoam continues to find its way to landfills.

As we speak, the USA buries around 1,369 tons of styrofoam in its landfills every day. It is therefore not surprising that cities like Washington, Seattle, and Portland have banned the commercial use of styrofoam.

What alternatives to styrofoam exist?

As people become warier and warier of styrofoam and other plastics, more and more alternatives pop up.

Here are a few viable alternatives to styrofoam:

PLA lined paper

If you regularly need to use disposable styrofoam cups, this is a better material for you.

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a resin made from corn starch. It can be used to make compostable containers or to line paper cups and containers so that they don’t get soggy.

Edible packing peanuts

Made of corn starch, edible packing peanuts are a great substitute for styrofoam ones. They biodegrade and you don’t have to worry about your pets accidentally eating them.

Biodegradable foam

This material is derived from sugarcane processing and is a great alternative to styrofoam. It can be used for a variety of traditional styrofoam functions.

Go for a biodegradable alternative

At the end of the day, you don’t have to use styrofoam if you don’t want to. There are a variety of biodegradable and even compostable options you can go for.

So if you do want to reduce your carbon footprint, try one today!

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