They are everywhere. We have been invaded and colonized. There is not a worthy supermarket without them: fresh food such as meat, fish, and even fruit and vegetables, or ready-made food come in polystyrene food trays.
And all for the sake of hygiene and time saving. But these styrene’s comforts are not free. In addition to the damage they are causing to the environment, it is likely they are taking their toll on our health.
But, what is polystyrene?
Polystyrene is a plastic, petroleum based, that can be solid or foamed. Sheet or molded polystyrene is used for producing disposable plastic cutlery and dinnerware, CD cases, yoghurt pots, and many other objects.
Polystyrene foams come in two main ways: expanded (EPS) or extruded (XPS). Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is a rigid and tough, closed-cell foam. It is usually white and is made of pre-expanded polystyrene beads. XPS or Styrofoam, like its main trademarked brand, is made of closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam currently made for thermal insulation and craft applications such as industrial models or food trays.
What are the dangers of this material?
- It is a product whose chemicals (largely secret) migrate and mix with our food. While the industry claims that this migration comply with the limits of the law, these are very vague and do not consider the accumulation of chemicals that we suffer with the rest of plastic containers.
- One component of this plastic is styrene that in the human body becomes mainly styrene oxide-7,8, that affects the endocrine system, the brain and the nervous system and increases fetal mortality.
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified styrene oxide as a substance that can cause cancer.
- They involve an exorbitant consumption of natural resources and generate unsustainable waste. Being a disposable product, they fill our dustbins far too qwickly after a very short life.
- They are not biodegradable and, although technically recyclable, in practice, due to its low density and weight, are not recycled for their low profitability. Today is mixed with other plastics or burned in what is euphemistically called “energy recovery”.
- Finally, they constitute a danger to marine animals since they are mistaken for food floating in the water.
What can we do?
Avoiding the use of these disposable trays is easier than it looks. Buy in bulk at local markets and corner shops carrying your own bags and containers. Besides saving time and money, we will generate sustainable wealth and employment at local level and give life to our downtowns and cities.