Foam peanuts

Facts on Foam: Plastic #6 Polystyrene

August 21, 2018

By Tori Carle, Waste Reduction Supervisor, City of Greensboro


What is it?

Polystyrene, or Styrofoam, is a petroleum-based plastic made from styrene monomers. It has excellent insulation properties, is light-weight, and 95% air. Styrofoam is commonly used in product packaging and the food industry. But every day, almost 1,400 tons of foam is buried in U.S. landfills. Plastic doesn’t decompose, it just breaks into smaller pieces, so it can affect people, animals, and our entire ecosystem and it’s on the top 10 list of garbage found in our waterways.

Easy solutions to a Big Problem

Whenever possible, don’t use foam packaging! On average, Americans throw away 25 billion foam cups per year. Imagine the impact if we all stopped using these products for one day? Or one week? Or one month?

Instead of foam, try using these alternatives:

  • For meals, parties and other events, use reusable mugs/cups, plates, and bowls
  • Carry your own take-out container for leftovers (I use a stainless steel one that I leave in my car!)
  • Buy eggs packaged in recyclable paper or plastic cartons
  • Request air pillows for packaging (They can be recycled with plastic bags at most grocery stores.)
  • Reuse packing foam! Donate it to schools for art projects. Contact shipping stores for collection information. Some shipping stores accept clean, foam packaging peanuts and bubble wrap.