Why You Don’t Want to Use StyroFoam Dishes This Summer (or Ever!)



It is finally summer fair and barbeque season. Yippee! However, I am reminded how often I see food being handed out on styrofoam plates and containers and why this is should be of concern to everyone.

I have always hated the feel of styrofoam cups on my lips so I started avoiding it years ago. I have since learned it contains some serious toxic compounds which can leach out into food. So shouldn’t we all be avoiding it? The challenge is that it is still so widely used.  As it’s likely you too will run into it this season, best to know WHY and HOW  to avoid styrofoam.

What is styrofoam??

  • Styrofoam is a trademarked name for an extruded foam made from polystyrene
  • Polystyrene is a synthetic compound derived from petroleum, and contains toxic compounds such as benzene. It is a lightweight, insulating material that is used in many formats in industry…unfortunately including disposable dish ware.

Studies have shown that the styrene leaches out of the styrofoam and into our bodies when we use styrofoam cups and plates.  In fact, a study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found just that when the food (or drink) inside was hot. If it makes you feel any better, it was also found that styrene didn’t leach out of foam egg cartons, which are usually refrigerated. so we can assume the most harm to human health comes when the styrofoam is heated.

However the direct impact on human health shouldn’t be our only concern. Styrofoam has become an acute environmental issue. The Environmental Protection Agency released a report (1986) listing the polystyrene manufacturing process  as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste. Fifty-seven toxic chemical byproducts are released during the manufacturing process of polystyrene, including benzene. Just think of the workers who manufacture it if nothing else.

As well, styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose. It makes up 25-30% of our world’s landfills AND has become a major source of marine pollution. And even though styrofoam is no longer manufactured with CFC (‘chlorofluorocarbon’ the famous ozone depleting chemical), it still uses hydrofluorocarbons linked to depleting the ozone layer and affecting global warming.

How to Avoid Styrofoam:

  • Look for the number 6. Polystyrene foam should be easy to spot by looking for a 6 inside the chasing arrow (aka ‘the mobius loop) symbol.  Unfortunately, polystyrene is also used in non-foam food containers, including clear-plastic clamshells and coffee-cup lids.
  • Don’t frequent restaurants or take out places that offer this type of food container.
  • BE PREPARED and take your own environmentally-friendly food and drink containers where you can to picnics, BBQs and fairs.

And remember that even though many jurisdictions are now trying to recycle styrofoam.. it is not a good option to use in the first place. So many chemicals used in its production affecting workers and our environment. We can all do better for the sake of our health, other people, AND our environment. So get yourself some stainless or glass re-usable containers and bamboo plates.

This post was inspired by the work of SaferChemicalsHealthyFamilies who work tirelessly to inform people of hidden toxins in their consumer goods….for which we should all be thankful 🙂


Plastic Beads in Unilever SkinCare Affecting Marine Life

I was shocked, incensed, and disgusted today to read that Unilever has been putting plastic microbeads in its skincare scrubs which are now are in such numbers that they are adversely affecting marine life.

As a resident of this earth where I live, drink the water, eat food including at times marine life, it incenses me that Unilever has been treating the earth as a junkyard.

In a 2008 study, it was found that such microbeads stay in marine mussels for approximately 48 days. This gives ample time for them  to be ingested higher up the food chain.  Yes this includes humans.  And this issues affects oceans and lakes.  As a resident living on a Great Lake, I was intrigued with this blog post I found about these plastic beads being found in the Great Lakes.  So am I drinking theses things??

The microbeads are made from polyethylene and should be noted as such on the ingredient dec. of products in case you want to see if you have any of the suspect stuff.  A quick check of the Skin Deep database will confirm which scrubs contain polytheylene beads.

An issue that is of ‘immediate concern’ according to a CNN report is these plastic particles ability to absorb contaminant chemicals in the water. The plastics have a large surface area compared to their volume so readily soak up other pollutants in our waterways and oceans. The fact marine life ingests these particles laden with all sorts of junk spilled into our waterways create an even greater problem. Who has just lost their appetite for seafood?

A number of years ago, I was at an environmental/sustainability conference in Toronto and one of the ‘high ups’ from Unilever was there touting their environmental initiatives.  As people clapped around the room, the guy speaking beamed as he spoke about Unilever’s noteworthy environmental accomplishments.  Now years later, I feel lied to, bamboozled. Shame on you Unilever for treating our earth and its residents poorly.

Unilever has posted on its site its commitment to clean up its act by 2015. Two years! How much more damage will be done by then?  I have decided I am out for good and will not buy their products anymore.  Speak with your wallet and they may get the picture. Here is a list of Unilever products/brands to help make your buying decisions more informed.

And if you want to know a totally natural exfoliating wash with NO plastic beads, my fave is Cocoon Apothecary’s Petal Purity Exfoliating Cleanser which uses jojoba beads to exfoliate.  The scent is divine and of course the product is all natural.