Two days ago I discussed a claim we tested of dissolving styrofoam. The styrofoam did dissolve but I wasn't sure on how environmentally friendly this was. I'm still not sure and that's not the focus of this post. The point of this post is to discuss whether standard styrofoam is environmentally friendly when broken into pieces. I've heard, and you may have as well, that breaking styrofoam releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Is that true? Let's find out.
I began with a Google search, but it's very hard to determine whether a site is truthful on the science. Are pro-styrofoam groups hiding the harmful effects? Are anti-styrofoam groups exaggerating any harmful effects to push their agenda? I eventually found a report from the University of Illinois that I'm comfortable placing trust in. A research group at a University is less likely to have a bias prior to starting the research. Here's the link to this short report if you'd like to check it out yourself.
From this report it appears CFCs were once used in the manufacturing process. Breaking these old packing peanuts up releases CFCs into the atmosphere causing ozone depletion. That is not the case in styrofoam today. Styrofoam does fill landfills, but not nearly as much as you would expect. From this report styrofoam makes up less than one half of one percent of all municipal solid waste. There is some release of low level chemicals when exposed to heat.
Even though styrofoam may not be as environmentally harmful as we think, there are still other concerns to consider. It still does fill landfills. It can be littered on streets and ditches. It is made from petroleum based products. Although the styrofoam itself may not be chemically harmful, the production of it is certainly not a clean use of energy and can be harmful to the environment.
So there you go. Take that as you will. Once I have more on the dissolving sytrofoam I'll post what I've learned.