Substitutes for Styrofoam

Styrofoam recycling centers are few and far between.
Styrofoam recycling centers are few and far between. (Image: pink styrofoam business image by robert mobley from Fotolia.com)

Styrofoam is a disposable, petroleum-based plastic made of a material called polystyrene. Although the qualities of Styrofoam--light weight and durable--make it useful in many transportation and storage capacities, such as holding coffee and packing electronics, it is actually a harmful material that takes an incredibly long time to break down. Aside from being bad for the environment, Styrofoam also contains dangerous chemicals such as styrene and benzene, and is highly flammable. To avoid these hazards, opt for one of several preferable substitutes.

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Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

Everyone is familiar with Styrofoam packing peanuts that often fill up the majority of a box and leave you overwhelmed with little bits of Styrofoam upon opening the package. As an alternative to this hazardous mess, several companies have developed biodegradable packing peanuts. These environmentally-friendly materials are non-toxic, reusable, compostable and, in some cases, even dissolve in water.

Sugar Cane Packaging

Sugar cane plant fibers are another substitute for Styrofoam. Sugar cane products, which are environmentally friendly and compostable, include plates, bowls and other to-go packaging and containers; they work well with both hot and cold food.

Paper Product Substitutes

There are many uses for which paper serves as a good Styrofoam substitute. For example, crumpling up newspaper and using it for packaging in lieu of Styrofoam peanuts is a good way to recycle and reuse rather than create more waste. Paper products are often easy to recycle and contain far fewer harmful chemicals than Styrofoam.

Reusable Substitutes

Reusable containers are not a new invention by any means, however, they are a simple and effective alternative to Styrofoam when it comes to storage. Using your own reusable coffee cup or plate at work or school can save you money and save the environment from unnecessary waste products. Environmentally friendly, reusable containers include glass, ceramic and stoneware, among others. They are washable and do not leech harmful chemicals into your food or drinks, or into the environment when they are eventually discarded due to breakage or excessive wear.

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