Posted on 2 Comments

The dirt on polystyrene

It has come to our attention that over the last few months, the Polystyrene Council’s marketing people have been on a mission to punt the environmental benefits of polystyrene – especially now that it is recyclable. We are particularly concerned by the fact that ‘green’ or ‘holistic’ events and publications have been the target of their greenwash campaign. Yes, greenwash. Current biodegradable alternatives to plastics are, of course, not without their problems. This is why we use our blog and newsletter to discuss these issues and to encourage debate about the limitations or problems of trying to move away from petroleum-based products.

In contrast, polystyrene is a petroleum-based material which has a dismal track record in terms of environmental and health consequences. Regardless of the fact that petroleum-based products can be recycled, it is not sustainable for us to remain dependent on them. Without a doubt, fossil fuels are one of the major contributors to global warming and a host of other environmental problems, as this great short film highlights.

What’s more, styrofoam or polystyrene consists of chemicals that are derived from petroleum which health experts have only recent acknowledged might be toxic to humans and pose serious health risks. In the 1980s a series of tests carried out in the U.S.A. identified styrene residues in 100% of all samples of human tissue taken and raised concerns about the risks posed by the build up of this substance in the human body. According to a Foundation for Achievements in Science and Education fact sheet, long term exposure can cause neurotoxic (fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping), hematological (low platelet and hemoglobin values), cytogenetic (chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities), and could potentially have carcinogenic effects.

It is therefore imperative that green magazines, events and products do not pander to the propoganda that is put out by plastic companies and those claiming their products are environmentally-friendly. We owe it to ourselves and to our clients that we maintain rigorous and thought-provoking debate in these crucial times.

2 thoughts on “The dirt on polystyrene

  1. Good day, i would like to know. If you have an event where you educate people on would you then go about the using and recycling of polystyrene? i suppose you would discourage the use of it but then if the person has used it and wants to recycle it, still encourage them to recycle..? What is a better option to use then, because biodegradable packaging aren’t really easily available here in Gauteng?

  2. Hi

    You will have to contact your local recycling depot to see if they accept polystyrene. Although not many do. For biodegradable packaging in Jhb area contact Phindi Dlamini on 011 616 3422, 082 879 7166,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *