Enviro Club’s War on Styrofoam



The Environment Club at Silver Creek High School is finding ways to educate people on the harmful effects of styrofoam and find ways to make styrofoam more accessible. “Styrofoam is a big issue because it produces a lot of greenhouse gases while it’s breaking down,” said Kataria. Photo credit to CMZ on Flickr, Creative Commons License, and link to photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/massczm/19503943314/in/photostream/

Humans live an average of 72.6 years. Multiply that by seven and that’s the time it takes for styrofoam to decompose: 500 years. That’s a really long time— time in which it harms the environment. The Silver Creek Environment Club is coming up with a solution.
In 2019, 80 thousand tons of styrofoam were produced, less than 500 tons of which were recycled. Styrofoam has become a major issue, mainly because it takes a long time to decompose. The Silver Creek Environment (Enviro) Club recognized how big of a problem styrofoam is, and is now taking steps towards solving it.
The Enviro Club at Silver Creek High School has taken serious strides in finding ways to make the community and school more eco-friendly in the past year and a half. Their most recent project is finding ways to reduce styrofoam use and, when it is used, to provide an eco-friendly means of disposing of it.
From the time styrofoam is being produced to when it finally decomposes, it is harmful. Expanded polystyrene, which is just a fancy name for styrofoam, is a “known carcinogen” said Rakhi Kataria, co-president of the Silver Creek Enviro Club and a junior this year at Silver Creek. That means it can potentially cause cancer— the workers in the plants, where styrofoam is produced, and consumers alike are exposed to this carcinogen.
Enviro Club has taken the direct approach to limiting the amount of styrofoam used and, when it is, how it can be disposed of. Thus far, they have considered setting up a styrofoam recycling bin by the Inta Juice in the Cafeteria, bringing in State representatives to help them take action, and talk to some businesses about finding alternatives to styrofoam.
Despite challenges Enviro Club faces, they are always seeking ways to improve the world around them. One issue being funding. A program the club is thinking of utilizing is the Cups Are REcyclable (CARE) program. The subscription is $295 for a minimum of six months. Enviro Club doesn’t have enough money to pay for this program, but they are figuring out how they can get the funds. It is a recently started project, so they are still researching and trying to find other options to CARE.
The Colorado House is trying to pass the Plastic Pollution Act. Essentially, this “will prohibit restaurants, hospitals and school cafeterias, and other food and retail establishments from using expanded polystyrene (foam) products,” said Kataria.
One of the businesses Enviro Club confronted about limiting styrofoam use was Cane’s. Dario McCormick, the club member leading the styrofoam project, said “When [Cane’s] initially opened, they had cars going back almost all the way back to Culver’s. And I was just doing the math… because I had worked at Culver’s before… and I roughly knew how many orders that was… so I was like ‘woah, that’s a whole lot of styrofoam out there and being produced. Okay, what can I do to try and… not have as much styrofoam going out there.” And that’s how the whole project got started.
Enviro Club members started a conversation with Cane’s management about why styrofoam is harmful and the possible alternatives that can be used in order to reduce styrofoam waste. When negotiating with Cane’s, they “are trying to speak with store managers and actually try to encourage them to switch from styrofoam to something else. We’re going to try to partner with them, so it’s not just like ‘please stop,’ but ‘here we’d like to help you with this, it’s a problem,’” said Peter Fredo, another of Enviro Club’s co-presidents and a senior this year.
Enviro Club has been an aggressive advocate for environmentalism for just about two years now, and they’re already making major progress in their efforts. Last year, they contacted Crayola about finding a way to reuse or recycle dead markers and successfully sent them back to be reused. Enviro Club was planning on getting compost at Silver Creek High School, but they had to hold off on that due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their small steps towards keeping the planet habitable, albeit small, are making a difference.