Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Pleathora of Polystyrene

Hotel living....Ahhhh...I've forgotten!  Clearly that means I'm way overdue for a vacation, and it's been far too long since I've basked in the glory of a few nights away!

Hotels these days give you a lot of amenities...the best of which is breakfast in the morning!  Today, I was living that life, getting up early enough to partake in quite a tasty complimentary breakfast of both warm and cold foods.

And yet...the satisfaction was not quite there as I sat at my table with my yummy breakfast before me, with my table littered with plastic wrap from my plastic cutlery, with my styrofoam (or "polystyrene," if you're a purist) plates.  A gaze around the dining area brought these things into focus:  styrofoam plates, bowls, cups, and clam-shell take-away containers.  Plastic cups, "silver"ware (wrapped in plastic wrap), and tubs.  Individual wrapped (in either paper, plastic, or both) peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar (of all varieties), honey, and jams.  

And the pièce de résistance:  plastic wrapped WHOLE apples.  Seriously?!?  We're compromising the Gulf with oil drilling in part to wrap apples???  Unbelievable!!

In all this, there was no surprise that there was nowhere to deposit my banana peel...even I get that composting is a little hard core, especially for someplace like a business or hotel.  But explain to me about the lack of recycling.  That one I don't get.  In today's world, shouldn't that be second nature by now?  Especially for the biggies--cans, plastic bottles, and paper?  But to have nothing available...truthfully, I find that irresponsible.  

Yet, even if there was a recycling bin, the styrofoam (or polystyrene) with the #6 emblazoned on the back in the chasing triangle recycle symbol is a bit of a misnomer--though I'd even almost call it a "bait and switch."  Styrofoam is hard to recycle and most facilities wash their hands of it.  Most people don't realize this because there is a recycling symbol on it.  That symbol is essentially useless except for the few specialty places that take it.  Add in, polystyrene never biodegrades (not that much does anyway in a packed landfill, but I digress).  Those styrofoam pieces will be here forever--in a landfill, or worse yet, whipped away by the wind to a water stream which ultimately takes it to one of the 5 oceanic Garbage Patches to further pollute our oceans and harm our marine wildlife. 

The unfortunate part of this all is that all of the above observations were made after I was already hijacked.  With a full day of traveling ahead, two hungry kids in tow, and the immediate plan of "It's breakfast time," how am I to just walk away mid-process?  Yes, I can plan better for the future, but at this point, I'm stuck (or left dealing with the wrath of hungry munchkins).  The landfill is now bigger thanks to me.  It left me cringing while I ate because I didn't have a better plan.  

For the future, I can envision a stocked bag with reusable kitchenware items (perhaps in part purchased at the Goodwill Superstore around the corner from my house), with some dish soap & towels thrown in to wash up afterwords so that it all can become part of our car travel luggage.  How easy would it be to throw that in the car, take it to our complementary morning breakfast, do a little self-serve on our own wares, and a quickie clean-up afterward?  It certainly would help start my day with a li'l less planetary guilt, and set good examples for my children.  

But wait!  Another image comes to mind.  One of this exact picnic-y bag my folks had in the 1970s when I was a kid and we were on a family vacation.  A little silverware caddy, a tote--all in one.  Here it is, we had what we needed (and need now!) in an age before the disposable "planet-trashing" era.  Irony....once again--a return to the simplicity of the past (along with my old Snoopy lunchbox and thermos) seems to be the answer. 

To find out if there's anywhere near you where they recycle polystyrene-styrofoam-#6 plastic, click the title above or go to

Picture from

For added irony:  Perhaps you too will find the humor in that I was taking all of this "breakfast styrofoam scenery" in while simultaneously wearing my "Recycle Electronic Waste" t-shirt.  I just shake my head.A Pleathora of Polystyrene

1 comment :

  1. By the way, great write-up there. And the best part of it is that you offer a solution! So few people do that. It's easy to say something sucks but much harder to try to solve the problem.