Polystryrene: Nature's Foamy Nemesis
There’s a knock at the door. Who could it be? You’re not expecting anyone and it’s a little early for Jehovah’s witnesses. Then you remember that you ordered something online, so you jump out of bed, shoot downstairs, groggily scrawl your name on the deliveryman’s sheet and take your parcel into the kitchen. Flicking on the kettle and getting out the coffee, you then tear open the packaging and, before you can even see what’s inside, dozens of Styrofoam peanuts spill all over the floor.
We all do it, and it’s fine. We then all scoop them up and put them in the bin, which isn’t so fine. Many people think that packing peanuts can’t be recycled simply because they’re biodegradable, but that’s not thinking outside the box.
First off, can you think of anyone who could reuse them? You shouldn’t have to think for very long, because surely you could use them at some point in the future yourself, such as when moving house or sending a friend a gift in the mail. If not, you could give them to a friend, a shop or even a post office. Small businesses and people who send out orders from their own website are pretty likely to welcome free packing materials, and there’s even a chance that a local primary school may want them for use in arts and crafts lessons. However, make sure to ask them first, otherwise you could make a wasted trip and look a bit silly.
Then there’s PolyMelt, a Manchester-based company that takes polystyrene from homes and businesses and recycles it safely, effectively and responsibly. As their website points out, we don’t know how long it takes for polystyrene to break down, so if you were to leave a foam cup untouched, it could remain perfectly functional for centuries! If it does get broken up (which is different from it decomposing), it could eventually lead to toxins entering the local water supply and even the air, posing a threat to the environment and the health of humans and animals.
So the next time you buy a new telly or order a DVD in the post and it’s surrounded by polystyrene or nestled in little white pork scratchings of foam, think twice before you throw them away. As PolyMelt’s website also states, if we continue down our current path, the UK will run out of spaces for landfill by 2020. Do you want to live in a country that’s one massive tip, ankle-deep in polystyrene? We certainly don’t.