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Published on November 24th, 2014 | by GrowWNY Intern


Common Ground: Coming Together to Make a Change at The UB Commons


As a college student at University at Buffalo, I am always encouraged when I see other students making an effort to bring about positive changes and make a difference around campus.  In late October, a petition began circulating with the purpose of encouraging The Commons (a conglomerate of various offices, stores and restaurants) to find a more sustainable alternative to the Styrofoam containers in which most of the restaurants serve their food.  Having eaten many a meal at The Commons, I have noticed that even when ordering a meal to eat at a table in one of the restaurants, most of them still serve the meal in a Styrofoam take-out container rather than a reusable dish.  This heavy use of Styrofoam is disconcerting for many reasons, including but not limited to the following (facts from the article “How Styrofoam is bad for the Environment“):

  • While it can be recycled, many recycling companies do not accept Styrofoam products.  So, most Styrofoam ends up in landfills.
  • Styrofoam is non-biodegradable, lasting hundreds of years (or potentially even lasting forever) in landfills. It is also a major pollutant in oceans and other bodies of water worldwide. Due to its long lifespan and light weight, Styrofoam is able to float along and accumulate in waterways, where it is often eaten by marine animals.
  • The manufacturing of Styrofoam results in various chemical byproducts, polluting the air and producing solid and liquid wastes. In addition, various chemicals used in the manufacturing of Styrofoam are known to have significant negative impacts on the environment, such as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which contribute to global warming.
  • Styrofoam is non-sustainable, as it is made with petroleum, a non-sustainable resource.
  • Styrene, the chemical from which Styrofoam is derived, is a proven carcinogen in lab animals, and may have toxic effects to humans as well.  When Styrofoam containers are used for food, they may leach potentially dangerous chemicals into the food, especially if reheated later.

With so many potential negative impacts upon the health of humans, animals and the environment, the widespread use of Styrofoam in The Commons at University at Buffalo is truly problematic, to say the least.  Hopefully a healthier, more sustainable alternative to Styrofoam food containers can be put into place through the efforts of concerned University at Buffalo students, staff and community members striving together to make a change.

The petition to end the use of Styrofoam containers in The Commons can be found here.

To learn more about the potential negative impacts of Styrofoam, check out the article, “How Styrofoam is bad for the Environment.”

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