Hang up the Foam is an initiative driven by The Girls Gone Green Projects Specialist, Christina Kelcourse. She wants to make it easier for restaurants to replace hazardous Styrofoam food containers with safer, more eco-friendly alternatives.
Those little transport cups and boxes seem so harmless when carrying our much needed coffee and leftovers. Hardly! The dangers can start the minute hot liquid or food comes in contact with the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) which is Styrofoam. You see, EPS is made using Styrene, a lab animal carcinogen and a possible human carcinogen and neurotoxin. Styrene can migrate from polystyrene containers into food and beverages when heated, or in contact with fatty or acidic foods. Occupational exposure to Styrene increases risk of lymphoma, leukemia, lung tumors, pancreatic cancer, urinary bladder cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer. Yuck!
Then, because of it's low recycling rate, it becomes dangerous to the rest of the world. EPS foam appears to last forever as it is resistant to be broken down by a light source which normally triggers a process for chemical compounds to decompose. This, combined with the fact that the foam is lightweight and therefore ﬂoats, means that over time a great deal of polystyrene has accumulated along coasts and waterways around the world. It is now thought to be the main component of marine debris. The debris, unfortunately, then becomes food for many animals and since they are unable to digest all these chemicals, they end up dead.
Basically, EPS is considered non-sustainable, an air pollutant and food contaminant - oh my!
We have been reaching out to the restaurant industry in Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach in hopes of working together to eliminate foam containers due to its high probability of leaking known carcinogens into your food.
Kelcourse who is a strong advocate for safer, more sustainable to-go containers has been communicating with various restaurants located near the beaches. She was able to give me some insight into what has her so fired up about to-go foam.
Why did you decide to head up the 'Hang Up the Foam' campaign?
Christina: When I learned about the potential health problems linked to eating food off Styrofoam I knew I had to do something about it. Working on this HUTF campaign is my way of spreading the word so more people know what I now know.
What have you learned a long the way?
Christina: I have learned that people are receptive to what I've learned AND they want to take steps to reduce Styrofoam use too! Practically everybody I have talked to believes reducing Styrofoam use is the right thing to do. But unfortunately, I have also learned that saving money can sometimes overpower doing the right thing.
Do you think the campaign is making a difference? What will it take to make it a success?
Christina: I believe it is. We are spreading the word. Even if all we do is educate people, that is successful to me. But we are actually getting restaurants to stop using this product which is our goal. It will be nice to watch this year as we get more and more places to make the switch.
How do you avoid Styrofoam or EPS foam in your daily life?
Christina: I try not to buy any products that use Styrofoam packaging. I also ask each and at every restaurant I go to for a Styrofoam-free alternative. And I try to avoid restaurants that only use Styrofoam.
Styrofoam has been found to be unhealthy, unsafe and one of the largest non-recycled waste products in landfills today.
Mary Jane: After hearing the statistics, especially when hot foods melt on the Styrofoam and cause health problems that was enough for us to CHANGE! Styrofoam is nasty for your health and the environment - not biodegradable and who wants to see this stuff on the earth forever - not our children!
Has there been a response from customers?
Mary Jane: To-go diners love the new changes and appreciate us taking action - nobody wants to eat out of a toxic to-go box!! Parents love having their kids drink out of the eco-friendly cup. We are currently working on a new kid design with a local supplier.
Is it cost-effective to make the switch?
Mary Jane: It costs 25% more for the eco-friendly option, but we feel like the health benefit is more important than the cost. We make it up by having more families dine with us.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Mary Jane: We are parents and we care about all of us eating well, and of course, leaving a cleaner planet for our kids. Many small steps make up a big difference, and awareness is important. We offer many healthy sides for kids including apples, mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. Nothing comes out of a can and everything is made from scratch.