Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 5 - Give up all styrofoam and polystyrene products

Today I'm giving up all styrofoam products. Right now, this is an easy challenge, because I can literally say that there is no styrofoam in my house. Nope, not even a little. The real challenge is going to be when I order take out. The styrofoam that the restaurant industry uses has been bugging me for a while.

This past Wednesday, I went on a little jaunt to the Starbucks in Liberty Village, and beforehand stopped at a Select Sandwich. The plan was to get a sandwich, take it to Starbucks, get a coffee, and spend a few hours reading. I've never been to a Select Sandwich location before, so I was looking forward to trying something new.

The restaurant is staffed by two very cheerful and eager to please folks. Unfortunately, Englsih is not their first language, so when I asked for my sandwich to be wrapped in napkins (rather than placed in a styrofoam box), that request was lost in translation. *sigh* Out I walked, with my roast beef on rye inside a large, white, squeaking styrofoam box. After I was done eating, and to make matters worse, my box wouldn't fit into the openings of the garbage cans at Starbucks. I'm not sure what was more embarrassing - knowing that I was adding yet another piece of non-biodegradable waste to our planet, or the squeaking and crunching that ensued as I forced the container into the garbage can.

So! No more styrofoam. And actually styrofoam is a word that we ues for all foam-like products. The actual brand name Styrofoam is a trademark of Dow Chemical Co. The stuff that food containers and coffee cups are made out of is known as polystyrene, has a recycling code of 6, and can be recycled. Good news - I can put my polystyrene in my green box, and it will be recycled by the City of Toronto (that is, once the garbage strike ends). So long as it has been rinsed out, the city will accept it.

Now I have a moral dilemma. Do I continue to use polystyrene products, feeling good that I live in a place that can recycle them, or do I shun their usage altogether and opt for a different sort of container? If I take my plastic no-name food containers to a take out restaurant, will they use them and put my food inside? And how exactly to I sort this polystyrene? In my condo's recycling room, we have a large bin for paper, a large bin for plastics and glass, and smaller bins for wine bottles, batteries and light bulbs. I called the City of Toronto, and after many public service announcements, I got through to a lovely lady who informed me that yes, I can place my polystyrene in the bin used for plastic and glass recycling, but she was not at liberty to say whether it was better to recycle or avoid. Rinsing the polystyrene to make it suitable for recycling does bring up the waste water issue, but perhaps I can use that waste water to water my plants (although I'm not sure my plants would enjoy water laced with pad thai sauce).

Ok, after some thinking and research, I'm going to avoid polystyrene altogether, because it requires energy to break down the material for recycling. And really, I shouldn't be eating take out food anyway, when you think about it. Who knows what's really in that food. I can make better stuff right here at home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Barbara, I found you from Crunchy Chicken. Welcome to Green Blogging. I don't blog myself but I read quite a few, and I'm looking forward to following your year long journey.

As for the Polystyrene, I agree with your decission to just do without it. Even if it can be recycled it's always bettre to reduce first. There are only so many things we can turn all that recycled plastic into!