Southern Africa Mothers’ Union Boycotts Styrofoam

A self-imposed ban on the use of Styrofoam – or Polystyrene – products by members of the Mothers’ Union in Southern Africa will lead to an increase in washing up – but it’s a price that the members are willing to pay for the impact their decision will have on the environment.

Styrofoam is one of the world’s most widely used plastics. It is used in a range of products from packing materials to CD and DVD cases through to yoghurt pots and disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. But its use is increasingly controversial because of the impact it has on the environment.

Production of the petroleum-based plastic is heavily energy-intensive; and it takes at least 500 years to decompose. Most recycling facilities refuse to accept Styrofoam because the economic costs of transporting and degreasing the lightweight plastic far outweigh the potential financial returns. And so the plastic is often dumped illegally on land or in the seas. There are increasingly significant quantities of it in the Pacific Ocean.

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