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#Designed4Trash Award: Styrofoam Container

In the "Design for Garbage Award" organized by the People's Design Laboratory in May 2017, foam plastic containers were rated as the second most wasteful item. Participants in this popular competition also proposed sustainable alternatives to replace these problematic containers, which is causing more and more problems. The amount of plastic pollution to the environment.

Styrofoam-how much do we know about it?

Styrofoam has various shapes and sizes. From packaging materials to sodas, most of us grew up with it, but how much do we know about it?

Polystyrene foam is made of polystyrene, which is a petroleum-based plastic. Its history is surprisingly old, dating back to 1839, when German pharmacist Eduard Simon separated polystyrene from natural resin. More than 100 years later, a process for the commercial manufacture of polystyrene (including the foam version "polystyrene foam") was invented, and the world of products, food, and packaging changed forever.

Styrofoam has a worse and worse rap because it has an impressive service life, that is, forever. Because of this, it now takes up a lot of space in landfills around the world, or floats on the sea, and is often mistaken for food by hungry turtles, seabirds, fish, whales, or anything else. In fact, poly Styrofoam has been marked as one of the main sources of marine debris. For a long time, this floating white substance is leaking harmful chemicals. Its main ingredient-styrene-is a carcinogen. Long-term exposure can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract, and is also related to fatigue, depression, lymphoma and leukemia. Disturbingly, styrene residues (source) are found in 100% of human adipose tissue.

Many restaurants, events, and companies still use Styrofoam, usually due to a lack of awareness of alternatives to disposable tableware.

Needless to say, we must make some adjustments for our health and the environment. Fortunately, it is 2017. Smart and inspired people have come up with various plant-based food containers to alleviate the disaster of foam.

It is never too late to move on!

Reusable alternatives to polystyrene foam

The best alternatives to styrofoam containers and other "disposable" takeaway containers are reusable options. Simply put, you can start to change the styrofoam trend by bringing your own food container when you eat out. There are many choices, from stainless steel tiffin to classic glass Tupperware or innovative Boc'n rolls (a plastic bag where you can safely pack your takeaway). For restaurants that use plastic Tupperware tableware, please wash and return them during the next meal. They may be happy to reuse it!


More and more choices seem to emerge. In Switzerland, reCIRCLE company invented the first system to provide restaurants with reusable containers for take-out customers. When customers buy food in a takeaway container, they will pay a "deposit" on it. Once it is used up, they can take it back to the restaurant next time and get another reusable container for free, or get their money back altogether. This system is spreading rapidly in Switzerland, and I hope it will land in more countries!


These choices are not only more sustainable, but they sound more interesting!

Disposable alternative to styrofoam

However, when these reusable options are not available and the use of disposable items cannot be avoided, then there are several biodegradable solutions that are better than Styrofoam or plastic in terms of the "end of life" of the product.

Corn starch-Basically, corn starch-based food containers use corn-based polymers (PLA) instead of petroleum-based. Therefore, the appearance and feel of these food containers are similar to traditional Styrofoam, but they can be composted.

Plant leaves-These leaf-based food containers quickly became popular because of their durability, biodegradability, and they look really cool. This process uses the pulp of fallen palm leaves and presses them into tableware.

Edible-Recently, many companies have made headlines for producing edible food containers. Loliware company uses seaweed base to make flavored beverage cups, and Munch bowls company designed a wheat bowl.

From the most popular reusable options to biodegradable disposable containers, we can see that in this era, the negative effects of Styrofoam are completely unnecessary. Changing our own lives and demanding changes in food industry standards is the way to a bubble-free world.

If you want to see all the solutions suggested by the users of People's Design Lab, please click here!

About the latest post

Time to wake up and smell the coffee: 6 zero waste coffee solutions-27/11/2017 #Designed4Trash Award: Styrofoam Container-25/07/2017 An 80-year-old activist, a volcano in the sea and a banana Leather Cruise-29/06/2017

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