I had this vivid dream recently in which I visited my alma mater and decided to eat in my old dining hall in this beautiful, classic, historic dorm. I was dismayed to find the wooden dining tables covered with bleached white paper tablecloths. The white china plates, real glasses and silverware that I remembered languished on shelves in favor of polystyrene (foam) plates and cups and plastic utensils.
There was no clink of silverware on plates. No thud of glasses being set on tables. Just the quiet, annoying scraping of plastic on foam. Yuck.
I asked who was in charge and (this part is fuzzy) got his name. “Why spend all this money and create all this waste when you’ve got the real deal right here?” I’d tell him, gesturing toward the shelves of dishes. But somehow I woke up and never got to talk to him. Darn.
In the real world, I avoid No. 6 plastic polystyrene, aka Styrofoam, at all costs. My kids will tell you that when they get the rare Chick-fil-A treat, drinks aren’t included in the deal because, “Mom hates Styrofoam!”
Avoidance isn’t easy. On the rare occasion when we go to restaurants and order kids drinks, they come in a foam cup unless I remember to ask for real cups. And then there’s the food takeout. You ask for a box, and a foam clamshell appears. Thwarted again.
So, what’s wrong with polystyrene? Everything. It’s petroleum derived, hazardous to make, difficult to recycle, and will eventually end up in the landfill and never break down.
Someone I know spearheaded efforts to rid their college campus of polystyrene. Their campus is now 100 percent “foam free.” He was happy to detail to me their efforts to make it happen, and I’m adding it to my list of “causes” I’d love to have a part in changing. I would love to see our local coffee shops and restaurants commit to finding alternatives to polystyrene. It can be done!
In the meantime, what’s the solution, besides avoiding it? (A). Save it and make a unique (and buoyant!) sculpture. (B). Drop it off at Arthouse Noblesville, 195 S. 10th St. where it will be recycled in art classes. Or (C). visit www.earth911.com and type “polystyrene” in the search box and your ZIP for Indy locations that will recycle it. Unfortunately, Noblesville doesn’t recycle No. 6 at this time.