I recently took a big box of accumulated polystyrene foam chunks, plastic bubble wrap and poly-ethylene foam sheets to a recycler in Kent, south of Seattle today.
Polystyrene foam is the light but solid white stuff that all kinds of products and especially electronic products are shipped in, and that some food containers and coffee cups are made of. Polystyrene foam is commonly called Styrofoam®, but Styrofoam® is a trademark of the Dow Chemical company and really describes a blue insulation product used in homes and industrial buildings.
The city of San Francisco has banned the use of polystyrene foam for retail sales for a wide range of products including packing peanuts, ice chests, dock floats and those famous to-go coffee cups. The stuff is incredibly slow to break down in landfill, and many times end up in the oceans where will it leach chemicals into the water. But all is not lost : scientists have found a mealworm that can actually subsist on a diet of polyethylene foam, with bacteria in the worm’s gut biodegrading the plastic as part of its digestive process.