Resistant to photolysis, your Styrofoam coffee cup may take anywhere between 500 and one million years to naturally decompose
A sucker for a statistic, I was pretty horrified to learn that every year around 2.3 billion kilograms of Styrofoam ends up in landfill and worse still, our waterways.
You're probably most familiar with the Styrofoam cup, a pretty outdated way of transporting an Americano, or some equally fancy-named coffee, but did you know just how bad this material is for the environment?
Styrofoam is simply the term used for expanded polystyrene foam. Resistant to photolysis, your coffee cup may take anywhere between 500 and one million years to naturally decompose. Let's face it, we're not going to be around when it finally disappears.
So with these statistics in mind I'm excited to hear about the WooBox - yes, you heard right - the Woo part comes from the materials that form it - wood and wool (see, makes sense!)
A small team based in Belgrade, Serbia, is heading up the No More Styrofoam Project, the machine behind the WooBox. Their hopes are that we can all turn our backs on this damaging material and instead embrace their new concept, designed to fit a variety of transportation and storing requirements, offering a green alternative to Styrofoam packaging.
Through a crowdfunding campaign, the No More Styrofoam team is confident they can raise $50,000 in order to put their innovative alternative into production.
Conceived as a "transportational box" for storing and packaging food and other goods, the WooBox is designed to meet all the requirements of the food delivery industry. Due to the thermal insulation properties of its materials, it's ideal for long distance transportation, ensuring product quality and optimising shelf life.
With Styrofoam made up of a toxic petroleum-based plastic, which threatens human health and the environment, it's no wonder that alternatives are being sought.
Styrene - one of the main ingredients within the material is regarded as a potential human carcinogen. Styrofoam is recyclable, however due to its density it is rarely recycled and so lays in landfill or is contaminated by pollutants in sea water and consumed by micro-organisms.
The California Department of Conservation estimates the cost to recycle Styrofoam to be around $3000 per tonne and the US alone produces three million tonnes of the material each year.
On the campaign group's Facebook page, No More Styrofoam states that Polystyrene recycling is not "closed loop", adding: "collected polystyrene cups are not remanufactured into cups, but into other products, such as packing filler and cafeteria trays. This means that more resources will have to be used, and more pollution created, to produce more polystyrene cups."
No More Styrofoam has launched its new WooBox on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform, off the back of its desire to raise global awareness about the threats caused by Styrofoam.
The box itself is created from the leftovers of the wool industry, which the team says provides exceptional insulation in terms of the temperature- controlled logistics. On the outside, the WooBox is created out of wood, guaranteeing the protection for the goods stored inside.
You can back the No More Styrofoam Project by donating on their crowdfunding page at https://igg.me/at/woobox/
You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube or visit their website, nomorestyrofoam.org
Laura Briggs is a regular contributor to the Ecologist. Follow her here: @WordsbyBriggs