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Styrofoam, or Expanded Polystyrene Foam (EPS), is the second-most commonly found item of debris along many coastlines. Polystyrene is 98% air. It is very light, and it floats. The worst thing about this material is that it does not photodegrade; however, when exposed to heat, it releases harmful toxins. It is easily carried from storm drains into the oceans.

Styrene easily migrates from Styrofoam containers into food items that we ingest. 100% of fat samples taken from humans return traces of styrene, which is a proven lab animal carcinogen. Styrene is found in air, water, and soil. Prolonged exposure to styrene increases the risks of many types of malignant tumors. Memory loss, hearing loss, lowered sperm count, and breathing problems are other serious health issues associated with exposure to Styrofoam. Proper disposal of Styrofoam is essential because recycling this material is not at all an economical exercise.

In Hawaii, the islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kaho’olawe have gone one step beyond proper disposal of Styrofoam and have passed legislation banning polystyrene food containers. Since, Hawaii has the largest per-capita use of Styrofoam food containers, the move is a very welcome one, and may encourage other states in the U.S to follow suit. A study carried out in 2006 had revealed that Hawaii was generating more than 50,000 pounds of polystyrene waste per day.

Hawaiians can do a lot to reduce the stress faced by the island ecosystem because of Styrofoam and other plastics. Simple lifestyle adjustments such as carrying a reusable straw, a steel water bottle, a steel tiffin box, a cloth bag for shopping, and shifting to paper bags instead of plastic ones can make a huge difference.

If you enjoy DIY, there’s a lot you can do that will not only contribute to the environment but also add to your health and enable you to save money. Cosmetics, shampoos, toothpastes, soaps…you can make these at home.

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