RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J. – Ridgefield Park students from grades 1 thru 5, their parents and residents of the Village recently received an education on the perils that Styrofoam has on the environment.
It’s all part of the Bergen County Sustainable New Jersey Hub’s Styrofoam initiative to educate, create awareness, and encourage county municipalities to recycle Styrofoam. The event was hosted by the Ridgefield Park Green Team and Public Library.
The program was held on Sunday, January 27, 2019 and was the first of an 18-month-long endeavor organized by the Sustainable New Jersey Bergen Hub, which received a grant from the Sustainable New Jersey Foundation for the project.
Joined by the Ridgefield Park Commissioners, Mayor George Fosdick provided opening remarks to kick off the initiative. “This was a hands-on interactive-program that gave children and adults an explanation and overview of the two different kinds of Styrofoam; XPS/Extruded Polystyrene for food and EPS/Expanded Polystyrene for shipping/packaging and other uses,” said Mark Olson, chairman of the Ridgefield Park Green Team.
“Many also expressed their concern about the health hazards that Extruded Polystyrene may cause; especially when it leaches into food. This happens when foods with fat and acids are put in the containers; the steam from the food melts that lid or when the container is reheated in the microwave. Those chemicals from this material have to go somewhere and they are going right into your food,” he said.
“I believe many of the students, their parents and residents walked away learning how bad both XPS and EPS Styrofoam are bad for the environment,” added Olson. “It’s a fact that it has caused problems for many of the fish and bird species that ingest this material on land, in fresh water, coastal waters and the world’s oceans.”
Commissioner John Anlian, who oversees the activities of the Village’s Environmental Commission and Green Team said, “We are glad to be part of this initiative. It’s about educating our community about environmental issues and working together to find solutions to solve them. Little things like the Ridgefield Park Public High School currently looking to eliminate the use of Styrofoam lunch trays is just one example of how a community comes together to make a positive change for our environment. As a result of this event, many parents expressed their desire to work as part of parent organizations to help the village's elementary schools eliminate the use of Styrofoam lunch trays, also. It’s all about being part of a grassroots movement to bring change to Ridgefield Park.”
Attendees were also made aware of “Styrofoam-Free Business” awards. Businesses which do not use Styrofoam (XPS) food containers would be awarded certificates and window medallions and listed on a registry of Bergen County Styrofoam-Free Businesses. Already, The Fire Pit Grill in Ridgefield Park has instituted this policy and recently was certified as a Green Business under Ridgefield Park’s Green Business Program and will most likely will become a Styrofoam-Free Business under the Bergen County program.
In Ridgefield Park and almost all of the county Styrofoam is not recyclable and must be placed in the trash. “Participants were surprised to learn that EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) which is used for shipping/packaging is actually very recyclable,” said Olson. “They were happy to learn that Ridgefield Park would be hosting one of the project’s collection events in January of 2020. Perhaps it will result in a more permanent and frequent recycling program for this material. That’s our end-game.”
The Facts about XPS (Extruded Polystyrene type of Styrofoam):
- Styrofoam, made out of non-renewable fossil fuels and petroleum-based plastic, is non-biodegradable.
- Styrofoam is most commonly produced to be used once, such as in hot drink cups, clamshell take out containers, or packing materials, and then thrown away, where it lasts forever.
- The manufacturing process of Styrofoam emits greenhouse gases and produces hazardous waste as a by-product, accelerating climate change.
- Because of its buoyant properties, Styrofoam commonly ends up polluting coastlines and bodies of water.
- Many marine animals mistake floating Styrofoam as food, which can lead to blocked digestive systems, choking, and death.
- Not only does Styrofoam impose negative effects on the environment, it affects human health. When in contact with hot or greasy food, Styrofoam can leach the carcinogens benzene and styrene.
- The anti-Styrofoam movement is gaining momentum nationwide; major cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Seattle have begun to ban the harmful material. Smaller cities and towns are following suit as residents learn about the dangers of Styrofoam.