Polystyrene Fact Sheet by Save The Bay

[Click here for PDF]

Polystyrene threatens the health of San Francisco Bay.
Save The Bay
• Plastic food service containers are a major component of urban litter. These products are usually polystyrene or expanded polystyrene or polystyrene foam (most commonly known as Styrofoam), and often wind up in the Bay, where they leach toxins into the water.

• Californians use approximately 56,000 tons of expanded polystyrene products each year. This is equivalent, in volume, to over eight Empire State Buildings.

• Take-out food and beverage containers, such as Styrofoam cups, are some of the most ubiquitous trash items fouling the Bay and local waterways. Polystyrene foam and plastic food packaging are also one of the biggest culprits in clogging municipal storm drains.

• Polystyrene foam is the second most abundant form of beach debris in California.

Polystyrene foam threatens the health of humans and wildlife.

• Studies have found that styrene, a cancer-causing and neurotoxic component of polystyrene, can leach into food and drink, posing a human health risk.

• The federal government recently declared styrene to be a likely carcinogen.

• Styrene can be found in air, water, and soil after release from the manufacture, use, and disposal of styrene-based products.

• Polystyrene breaks down small pieces that marine animals easily mistake for food.

• Polystyrene foam products pose a health threat to wildlife. At least 267 marine species worldwide have been reported to have been affected by polystyrene litter.
Wildlife that consumes polystyrene suffer from loss of appetite, reduced nutrient absorption, and starvation.8 Recycling polystyrene foam has been ineffective.

Recycled Styrofoam has very little market value and can only be used to make a small range of products, most of which cannot be recycled themselves.

• Less than one percent of polystyrene foam food ware is recycled in California, making recycling a futile and costly effort.

• Recycling facilities will only recycle polystyrene foam if it is clean, and residents are expected to take their washed foam containers to the recycling centers themselves – Bay Area cities are not collecting this product curbside.

• Even when placed in trash or recycling bins, these lightweight items are often picked up by wind and blown into the gutters – where they flow into creeks and storm drains and then into the Bay and the ocean.

Alternative containers are better for the environment.

• Affordable alternatives include paper products with recycled content and re-useable, washable cups and containers.

• A wide variety of plastic-like containers made from non-petroleum-based sources such as corn, potato, sugarcane, and other natural starches are now available. Combined with an effective commercial compost program, these alternatives can reduce landfill loads and polystyrene and petroleum-based plastic pollution in the Bay and ocean.

• Business leaders recently testified in Sacramento that the increase in alternative food ware is being driven by consumer demand. As demand increases, prices will go down.

Litter can be prevented by implementing policies that ban commonly littered items.

• The most effective way to reduce litter is by preventing it at the source.

• Public education on its own will not reduce litter, but is essential to successfully implementing a ban.

• Several cities around the Bay Area have taken action on polystyrene food containers. There are now 50 cities in California and more than 20 in the Bay Area that have banned the use of polystyrene foam. The Regional Water Quality Control Board has recognized product bans as an effective way to prevent trash
pollution in our waterways.

10 ways to help our oceans waves and beaches

Surfrider's, "10 ways to help our oceans waves and beaches."

Surfrider’s, “10 ways to help our oceans waves and beaches.”

At the last Surfrider Beach Cleanup, I picked up their handbill headlined, “10 ways to help our oceans waves and beaches”. It’s been lost in my backpack, so I thought I’d type it up and put it out there before it ends up being garbage.

Each year over 20,000 beaches across the United States are closed or posted as unhealthy. If we all pitch in, we can make a difference in keeping our world’s oceans, waves and beaches clean and healthy.

Here are 10 ways we can work together to make a difference:

  1. Pick up your pet’s wastes. Pet waste that reaches the ocean can make both people and marine life sick!
  2. Conserve energy. Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and other energy saving activities helps to slow climate change. Global warming will have dramatic impacts on our coastlines.
  3. Hold on to your butt. It’s best not to smoke, but if you do, make sure you dispose of your used cigarettes in a proper waste container. Cigarette butts are the number one litter component found on the beach!
  4. Don’t hose down your driveways. Not only does it waste water, but it causes oils and other pollutants to end up in our oceans. Use a broom and dust pan instead.
  5. Use native or climate-adapted plants in your garden. These kinds of plants use less water, which helps reduce runoff and helps keep our beaches clean.
  6. Always dispose of used motor oil properly. Never dump oil in a storm drain or field. Instead, take it to a gas station or approved collection area for recycling.
  7. When you go to the beach, make sure you not only pick up your trash, try and pick up at least one piece of somebody else’s. If everyone did this, we’d have our beaches and coastlines looking better in no time!
  8. Cut back on your use of fertilizers. Excess fertilizers that make it into our waterways can cause harmful algae blooms that can harm fish, marine mammals and other sea life.
  9. Avoid using single-use plastic bottles and bags. These and other types of plastics often end up on our beaches and in our oceans, where they harm birds, sea turtles and other marine life. Instead, use refillable bottles and reusable bags and containers.
  10. Join the Surfrider Foundation! We are a non-profit grassroots environmental organization that works to protect oceans, waves and beaches across the globe.

For more information on other ways to keep your beach clean, or to join the Surfrider Foundation, visit us at www.surfrider.org.

…And glad to see the flyer was printed on recycled paper using soy based ink! 🙂