This past summer, young environmentalists in Hallandale Beach, FL helped make a dent in the trash and debris that had built up on the nearby beaches and in the ocean. The 2015 Summer Youth Environmental Employment/Education Beach Clean Up Program spanned 31.24 miles of beach, and the teens worked for 606.25 hours. They collected 7,319 individual items of trash, weighing in at more than 536 pounds. Of these more than 7,300 pieces of trash, 34—or less than half of one percent—were polystyrene foam.
Hallandale Beach will soon be deliberating a ban on polystyrene foam—often referred to as Styrofoam—throughout the city. But foam products make up such an insignificant portion of litter in Hallandale Beach, that this ban would only have negative results. Rather than banning foam, clearing up some misconceptions surrounding foam and educating citizens about polystyrene recycling would be much more effective.
One of the misconceptions surrounding polystyrene foam is its link to Styrofoam. Though both polystyrene foam and Styrofoam are No. 6 plastics, Styrofoam is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, and is mainly used for insulation; polystyrene is most often used for food packaging products.
Another misconception is that polystyrene foam can’t be recycled. That’s simply not true. Foam is recycled across the country, and when it is recycled, polystyrene can be used to make items like rulers, surfboards, garden nursery trays, and picture frames. It’s also used in architectural molding and in eco-initiatives, such as alternative energy production and “green” buildings.
Foam recycling is a much more realistic and sustainable goal than a ban on foam. Polystyrene recycling reduces solid waste, decreases our dependence on virgin resources, prevents pollution, saves energy, protects the Earth’s atmosphere, and models sustainability for future generations.
A foam ban, on the other hand, would hurt schools, hospitals, and many restaurant owners across the city. The alternatives are simply too expensive—two to three times more expensive, in fact. Foam containers provide excellent insulation at a cost-effective price and save schools, businesses, consumers, and government agencies money. This leads to lower costs, creates more jobs, and fuels the local economy.
Continued education about recycling opportunities and events that strive to keep the beach and ocean clean will help Hallandale Beach lead the way in green living. The 2015 Summer Youth Environmental Employment/Education Beach Clean Up Program was a success, and plans are already in place for another event in 2016.