Styrofoam Cup

Chaitanya Kalathuru Anderson 7th

What is it?

Styrofoam is a product that plays a major role in our lives. The styrofoam cup, in specific, is used to hold beverages. The product is lightweight and cheap to produce.

Picture of a Styrofoam Cup

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How is it made?

Styrofoam is actually the name of the brand; it is made out of polystyrene. Polystyrene is a petroleum-based plastic that is made out of styrene monomer. It first starts off as petroleum. Petroleum is sent to a factory where it is turned into plastic pellets through the processes of heating, extracting, and cooling. The pellets are then sent to factories, where they are expanded to sizes that are 30 to 40 times greater. It is then set into a mold to create the shape. About 95% of polystyrene is air, which makes the product very light. The raw resources necessary for this are extracted from oil fields in the Middle East or in Alaska; it is extracted using drills. It is then transported to factories via boats, pipelines, and trains. The pellets are packaged in cardboard boxes.

Video of How Styrofoam Is Made

Expanded Polystyrene Foam Products Discovery Channel Video How It's Made

How is the product used?

Styrofoam cups are used in many fast food restaurants. They are used to hold beverages such as coffee, soda, water, and etc. These cups help insulate the heat. MacDonald's, for example, is popular for using these cups. They offer these cups in different sizes. This product was created to be disposable, so it is thrown after being used once.

What happens to the product once it is no longer needed?

The styrofoam is sent to landfills after it is thrown into the trash. This product is not sustainable since it is made out of petroleum, and it is detrimental to the environment. Once it is released into the environment, it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. Eventually, it turns into powder. This has a very negative effect on animals and environments. In the oceans, for example, many animals consume the plastic believing that it is food. It messes up the food chain because other animals will ingest the animal that consumed the plastic. Eventually, even humans might consume plastic indirectly. It takes more than 1 million years for styrofoam to decompose. When styrofoam is exposed to hot temperatures, it release a neurotoxin that is harmful for humans and animals.

Picture of an Animal That Consumed Plastic

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How can this process be reused or repurposed?

Unfortunately, the method of recycling styrofoam is inefficient and very small. Styrofoam is not recyclable if it is contaminated with food. However, some companies are finding ways to create biodegradable polymers. Styrofoam cups cannot be recycled to produce other cups; it is changed into other plastics. This in turn contributes to more pollution. The best way to help fight this is to opt for re-usable products such as mugs and cups.

Re-Usable Cups

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Impact of the three R's on preserving Earth's biodiversity

The biodiversity on Earth is very fragile. Human activities are contributing to the destruction of biodiversity. However, by using the three R's( reduce, reuse, and recycling) it helps ameliorate the effects of human activities. By reducing the use of styrofoam cups, fewer animals will consume plastic and fewer toxins will be released. By reusing it, the amount of styrofoam cups is decreased. Lastly, by recycling it will stop the production of more. Also, it will save petroleum, which is not sustainable. Overall, by cutting down on styrofoam cups it will make Earth a safer and habitable place for animals and humans.


"Cleveland State University." Fun Stuff and Fast Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

"Earth Resource Foundation." Earth Resource Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

"Plastics Pellets: From Petroleum to Plastics." Plastics Pellets: From Petroleum to Plastics. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.