Styrofoam cups and plastic plates

plastics-avoid-2-6-mdWe buy them by the case — styrofoam cups and plastic plates.  We use lots of them, cases and cases each year, because we’re Baptist and we eat a lot.  We wouldn’t think of making you eat with plastic forks and knives because they break. Nope, we use real stainless steel silverware, but we pour our tea and coffee into styrofoam cups and eat off of plastic plates.  Why?

We probably use throw-aways so we don’t have to wash dishes.  We don’t have a kitchen staff, only volunteers, and nobody likes to wash dishes.  Washing the silverware and serving pieces takes long enough.  But we’ve never really had a conversation about why we use styrofoam cups and plastic plates.  We need to.

Not only are these products made from petroleum, but they also take forever (almost literally) to break down in the landfill.  Plus, The Daily Green contends polystyrene (brandname: Styrofoam) can leach harmful residue into food and drink.   In other words, we are facing not one, but three problems: energy, environment, and user health.

Today I’m adding a new topic — Ethics — to this blog’s categories.  I dealt with ethical issues at my other blog, Amicus Dei, for awhile, but congregations need to grapple with ethical decisions, too.  Watch for more posts on ethics.  As my seminary professor, Ebbie Smith used to say, “Ethics is the part of theology that really counts.”  His point being that how we live expresses what we believe.  If we could apply that to our covered-dish suppers that would be a big step.

5 thoughts on “Styrofoam cups and plastic plates”

  1. We ended up buying proper dinner sets etc for our breakfasts and dinners, and as we dont have a kitchen it all gets loaded into a massive plastic box and sent home with volunteers who put it through their dishwasher. Yeah it takes more time, but it looks and feels better as well as helps with the environment.

    That being said we use the cardboard kind of cafe cups for sunday coffees.

  2. Dear Paster, you, as well as, so many more people have become the victim of a massive mis-information scheme. The reality is that all of the bad things that have been passed along as fact about polystyrene AKA Styrofoam are either false or distortions of the truth. For example, the Daily Green’s assertion that styrene leaches into foods from polystyrene packaging may on some level true, what they fail to say is that there are upper limits on the level of migration (the proper term)deemed safe. The safe level is magnitudes less than the styrene consumed by eating say a cinnamon roll, strawberries, peanuts, or many more foods. You see, styrene naturally occurs in all of these foods. A commentor to this posting said they use cardboard cups rather than PS cups, by doing so they have made a change that requires more energy to produce even accounting for the energy that would be produced had the petroleum in the plastic be converted into energy. So making decisions based on “junk science” rather than real science has resulted in doing more harm than good. Good intentions does not change the facts. It is all rather sad really. Please read more written by real scientist rather than what is written by those with an agenda. If you want an example of the same sort of scenario just look what has happened with ethanol; the same groups that are waging the war against PS said ethanol was the greatest thing since sliced bread but now that it has resulted in increased food shortages in the poorest of nations, they can’t run away from it fast enough.

  3. I agree whole heartedly with Recycle EC. It is time to quit quoting “Eco-opinions” as fact. Please tell me what legitimate scientific study has been done, and verified by follow up study,that styrene leachs from Styrofoam, in what amounts and at what temperatures? And how much energy do we save by using styrofoam instead of paper? Martin Hocking of the University of Victoria has a published study on the life cycle analysis of Styrofoam vs Paper. Paper uses much more energy to produce and use. So, I repeat, can anyone point me to a scientific study that proves that styrene leaches from styrofoam cups, plates, etc, and in what quantities?

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone having an indepth conversation about their lives, Jesus or the church as they walk past a garbage can, dropping off their plate as they keep right on going. However, I’ve had numerous such discussions over a warm sink of soapy water, with a friend or church goer drying the dishes besides me. Similarly, our kitchen rings with laughter and fun when we clean up together.

    It is hard for established folks to interact with “newbies” but I’ve found as some of our newbies get busy in the kitchen, the memories are made and the barriers break down.

    While we may have many arguments for and against paper/styrofoam etc. on an ecological basis, I would suggest we might want to consider the community building aspect.

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