One Green Thing: Why should you avoid Styrofoam?

By Jan Herbert
Rockford Park District

Whether you were “green” before the color was fashionable or whether you’re just ready to find the “shade” that works best for you, here’s information about doing just “one green thing.”

Certainly, almost everyone knows polystyrene (more commonly known as Styrofoam) is NOT GOOD for our environment. Did you know it takes 1,000 years to break down in the landfill? Oh, sure, it’s the easy way to serve a cup of coffee, but could you reconsider and use a real cup? Make the decision when you are purchasing the plates, do you really want your kids to eat off that?

Here’s why…the product can release potentially toxic breakdown products, particularly when heated (like when you pour hot coffee into one, or put one in the microwave, or even just place hot food on it)! I sure don’t want to run the risk, so I choose ceramic, glass and paper, or plastics like Nos. 1, 2 or 6.

If you order items at drive-through restaurants, ask before you order if any of the products will be served in Styrofoam. Some will tell you “we use the recyclable kind.” But, of course, once food has been eaten or drunk from it, that is not so. And even when it is recyclable, there is no facility nearby. You can check it out for yourself at (you would have to ship it to do it, and where’s the sense in that?)

Before ordering items that may have Styrofoam as the packing material, ask the vendor if the material can be reused. Or, ask them to repack your item using more recyclable-friendly materials, or in the case of those peanut things, take them back to where you purchased the product, or drop them off at your nearest pack-and-ship.

It’s a good thing…just say NO STYROFOAM.

For more information, e-mail Jan Herbert at

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