We use refillable cups at events. Plastic. Paper. Polystyrene. We drink in them and throw them away. But, did you know that one of the three types of cups is detrimental to our health?
Unlike plastic and paper, polystyrene is not recyclable and damages not only our environment but also our health. Polystyrene is used to make those soft, white cups that we can mark with our sharp fingernails. We may not recognize the material name itself because we call it “Styrofoam.” Styrofoam cups are the trademarked brand of polystyrene foam that was created on July 26, 1947. Since the material was 30 times lighter and more durable than the original polystyrene, people started to use the cups in their daily routines. They would pour coffee and tea into the cups without realizing how harmful it was.
Styrofoam contains the cancer-causing chemical styrene; the chemicals can leak into liquids and food, especially in hot products. While eating your favorite meal or drinking a delicious drink in the Styrofoam products, you are also consuming the harmful chemicals. The toxins can be absorbed in our bloodstream and tissue, and they have been associated with blood cancers leukemia and lymphoma. To those who were exposed to the toxins, they also had genetic and nerve damage.
Billions of Styrofoam fill up 30 percent of our landfill space and that space is also needed for other garbage. According to Washington University, “Styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose; it cannot be recycled, so the Styrofoam cups dumped in landfills are there to stay.” If we keep using Styrofoam products, part of the world will soon be filled with Styrofoam and will leave a major ecological impact.
More businesses, schools, and restaurants have taken action and stopped using Styrofoam. Recently, Maine became the first state to ban Styrofoam food containers. Governor Janet Mills signed this ban into law on April 30, and the law will go into effect in January 2021.
One by one, we can stop using styrofoam cups for our own benefit and also help our environment all at the same time. The next time you walk into a store to buy cups for an event, do not even think of Styrofoam cups as an option. Choose items that would not hurt you and can be recycled such as paper.
Holly Bae, Grade 9
La Canada High School