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Bemoan the 'Foam

by Quinlan

8th Grade

Bay Trail Middle School

Everyday, millions of people use this substance. Everyday it poisons our Earth, as well as us. Expanded polystyrene foam, or Styrofoam, contains toxins that can harm the human body, and stays on the planet for possibly hundreds of years harming the lives of plants and animals. 

Styrofoam is made up of many chemicals, some of which are toxic. One of these chemicals is styrene, a toxic substance believed to be a carcinogen. Styrene exposure can cause many health problems, some physical, like eye and skin irritation, and others mental, like depression. Younger children are more vulnerable to toxins like styrene on account of behaviors like putting objects in their mouth. In addition because they are still developing, their bodies are less capable of breaking down the toxins. 

Styrofoam effects nature as well. If it isn’t re-used, Styrofoam will end up in landfills or nature and can take hundreds of years before decomposing. This presents quite a danger to wildlife, as consuming products made of Styrofoam could cause an animal to choke or become very sick. When exposed to sunlight, Styrofoam will can release harmful air pollutants, which has a negative effect on the ozone layer. 

Some places have recognized the damage of Styrofoam and have been trying to make a change. McDonalds, which sells 2.36 billion burgers annually, stopped using foam boxes for burgers. Many cities and towns have passed laws against some types of styrofoam containers. Los Angeles Unified, a public school, made the switch to compostable paper trays.

But for many schools, like Bay Trail Middle School, change has yet to come. A big problem that schools face is the price. Some compostable tray types only cost a few cents more than their Styrofoam counterparts, which seems small, but can quickly build up to thousands of dollars. Some schools aren’t able to compost the trays, so they aren’t having the desired effect. There are some creative options. Some schools have been introducing “tray free” days and this saves money by reducing the amount of trays used annually. 

Styrofoam is harmful in many ways to both nature and humans. However we can reduce this harm with eco-friendly trays and food containers, and try to reduce the overall amount of food packaging we use at all. Even with the problems of cost, and more work, we can turn towards a better option. 

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