The term “Styrofoam” has been widely employed to refer to plastic-related products made from blowing chlorofluorocarbons and other reactive gases into the polystyrene to make foamed polystyrene products ranging from coffee cups to packaging pellets commonly known as peanuts. The manufacturers of the expandable polystyrene foam have been denying using harmful gases during the manufacturing process, but samples taken from finished products show the presence of those gases. Expandable polystyrene foam was discovered by a Dow chemical scientist, Otis Ray, in 1941. From then, products made from EPS have been used interchangeably to mean Styrofoam. Contrary to this is the economically beneficial natural product of Dow chemical company that is used mainly in construction to offer semiconductor insulation on walls, ceilings, and even parking docks. It is also used in dishes to preserve heat. Styrofoam from the Dow chemical company has been observed to offer great help to people living in Alaska where temperatures fall even below 20° C and also in Middle East countries where temperatures are also scorching. There has been a fierce battle of trade name usage from Dow Company.
Styrofoam is commonly used in products that have more negative impacts on the economy and social life. However, its low price and light weight make it irresistible to the world market. It has been marked to cause harm right from the manufacturing process up to the breakdown from the sun’s rays. Luckily, most countries and some cities in the U.S.A. and Burundi have banned its full use. It is mostly preferred as packaging containers since they cost less to the selling party.
Styrofoam Is Generally Bad for Our Daily Life Due to the Following Facts
During the manufacture of Styrofoam, harmful gases are emitted to the atmosphere. This exposes the people operating the machines to the hazardous risk of either respiratory problems or cardiac arrest. It has been pointed at as causing death to 1 in every 10 people who have worked in EPS industries.
Styrofoam is among the top five greatest contributors to marine and ocean pollution. Through this, most marine life is lost as most of the animals feed on the degradable products thinking they are digestible. Contrary to this is that the polystyrene components form hard balls in the stomachs of these animals and eventually lead to death after interfering with the normal functioning of the body.
Styrofoam is economically unviable for recycling; since it has to be blown out to take out the more than 90% air in it. It becomes uneconomical to carry the light mass to the recycle sites as the transport cost will exceed its value. This leaves it to be thrown away, and nobody has concerns for its value. The recycling project, however, may be made economical if the government subsidizes the process.
When exposed to high temperatures or burnt, it gives out fumes that are neurotoxins. Also when put it in the microwave for food warming, the styrene in the container leaks to the food and is ingested into the body. This is a serious health threat since a high accumulation of these chemicals can cause cancers and other cardiovascular problems.
Styrofoam, when exposed to the sunshine, breaks down through the process of photo-degradation and continues breaking down into non-biodegradable particles to a point that it becomes as soft as powder. These particles then get into the air and are inhaled into the body; others are swallowed while still others find their way to oceans and continue to cause more harm.
During the manufacturing, photo-degradation, and even recycling, it emits more than 50 different carbonic gases that lead to global warming and also deplete the ozone layer in the stratosphere.
When burned indoors or in reduced oxygen environments, it produces gases that are carcinogenic and hazardous to the environment, which include carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and carbon monomers.
The negative impact of Styrofoam products is, thus, contributed mainly by the manufacturing process; and the process makes it almost uneconomical to recycle. The gases blown to foam it up are highly toxic to the atmosphere. They cannot break down to degradable matter. The entire world has no option but to boycott usage of these products until the manufacturers reach a point of incapacity to produce. The government should also pass laws with strict measures to ensure a responsible way of disposal is employed in handling the expandable styrene foams.