While on vacation recently, I was shocked when several of the sit down restaurants I visited served the food on Styrofoam plates with plastic utensils. Each person who ate at those restaurants left behind a cup, bowl, plate and silverware that will never degrade; they will exist forever. It made me wonder if there is anything we could do to reuse Styrofoam and try to eliminate this waste.
Because it never breaks down completely, the best way to help the environment deal with the problem of Styrofoam is to not use it at all. When you go to a restaurant that you know uses Styrofoam cups you could bring a water bottle to put your drink in. When you can, choose other types of packaging that is biodegradable. But what can you do with the stuff you already have? Here are different options that might help you reuse Styrofoam.
1. Save packaging peanuts and other bits of Styrofoam to package things that you are sending out in the future.
2. Use crumpled bits or packing peanuts in the bottom of pots instead of rocks for aeration. This can help make your pots lighter as well! Just be sure when you crumble it up that it is not going to continue crumbling into those little balls and be washed away. We’re trying to keep it out of the oceans, not wash it there faster. Try putting netting over the holes in the pot to keep it in.
3. Biodegradable solvents such as Limonene (orange rind oil) can break down Styrofoam and turn it into permanent glue that can be used around the house.
4. Use them in crafts! Styrofoam can become blocks for kids to play with or thin sheets can be cut into shapes and used in jewelry, garlands and other fun projects. If you don’t like the aesthetic look you can still use it to support other projects. Even heavy skewers will stick straight up in a block of Styrofoam.
5. Bring any Styrofoam that you can’t find any other use for to a local shipping store. Most places will accept free donations and use them for shipping.