We must have all encountered Styrofoam in our everyday life and surprisingly not many of us have thought that it can be used positively. Styrofoam is formed from the many items that have a one-time use, for example, the coffee cups, which cannot offer any other solution. A lot of the Styrofoam end up being n the landfill, in the beaches or oceans.
According to Ashton Cofer, the US annual production of Styrofoam stands at over two billion pound. This in return takes close to 500 years to degrade. This production apparently makes 25% of the many landfills surrounding us.
But why do we have these collection of Styrofoam waste?
More often than not we have heard about recycling of plastics. On the other hand, we are all aware of the dangers of recycled polystyrene, which means Styrofoam would not have demand if it was recycled. Styrofoam is neither feasible nor viable to recycle polystyrene and as such Styrofoam is considered a nonrenewable material.
Apparently, the production of products containing polystyrene has been banned by many cities across the US. France has gone ahead to completely ban all plastic utensils, cups, and plates.
What about if we retained Styrofoam and keep benefiting from its various features?
Despite all the challenges surrounding, there is something good to write home about it. We are talking about being cheap, lightweight, insulating and its excellent packing ability. Cofer argues that it is possible to turn it into something else that’s actually useful.
One of the elements in Styrofoam is carbon, which Cofer and his team of three other students have tested and successfully created activated carbon from Styrofoam waste. Another problem that Cofer’s team was able to solve was from its testing of Styrofoam waste was its reduction.
After several tests that have proven successful, the team has received funding from the NSTA’s eCYBERMISSION STEM-in-Action program supported by the US Army. It has also received the FIRST Global Innovation Awards sponsored by XPRIZE. From all this support and any other that may come, Cofer says that their intention is to file a full patent on their process as they continue to work on the project.
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