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Re: [GreenYes] Polystyrene Food Containers
Jeff Aluotto-

The answers to your question on using chopped polystyrene to try to
aerate soil certainly went far afield.  People started talking about
talking about alternatives to foam polystyrene packaging - a valid
subject but not in response to your question.  I don't think those
starch-based packaging materials would do anything for soil aeration....

I can give you a partial answer to your question.  Foam polystyrene is
pretty stable/inert in soil.  I've seen foam blocks that have been
buried in potting soil for a couple of years, and they look just like
they originally did, except dirtier.  You can also find foam polystyrene
cups that have been littered for years later.  I doubt if the
polystyrene would show any significant biodegradation for many years.
There might be some compression over time.

I wouldn't recommend using polystyrene foam bits for two reasons though.
First, it is a real mess to chip up into little bits, and there could be
health implications if the foam is heated in the chipping process
possibly releasing styrene or other nasties.  Second, who wants to have
little bits of polystyrene foam blowing all over your yard?  It isn't
very aesthetic.  I would stick to something like pea gravel or pumice
for aeration, although pumice will break down over time.

It might be interesting using foam plastic bits in a potting soil mix,
as people don't like carrying heavy plants when they are shopping.  We
buy lots of perlite to lighten our potting mix, but I've heard perlite
is pretty energy-intensive to produce.  This might be a possible use of
a pretty unpopular waste product.  However, aesthetics could still be a

Peter Spendelow

Original message:

We had a question from a resident regarding the polystyrene containers
that come wrapped with meat products (poultry, etc.). The resident was
wondering if that material could be finely chopped and used for aeration
purposes in a home garden. 

Does anyone have any information on the stability of that material over
time or its suitability for this purpose? 



Jeffrey W. Aluotto 
Hamilton County Solid Waste Management District 
ph: 513-946-7719 fax: 513-946-7779 

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