By MARISA LEWIS
Why have students been voluntarily containing their meals in a potential carcinogen on a daily basis? This nauseating acceptance has unfortunately become second nature to both attendants and students for years at the entrance of UT’s Ultimate Dining cafeteria. For only a few simple words and a quick meal swipe, attendants repetitively grant students with crisp white Styrofoam containers and cups, hundreds of times per day.
What fails to occur in the mind of a hungry college student is that this seemingly normal exchange would be considered unlawful in hundreds of cities across the United States. The first bans on the production and consumption of Styrofoam by city, date as far back as 1989. It is evident that the University of Tampa and city itself has been turning a blind eye to this critical issue for the past 23 years.
In turn, students should be anything but close-eyed to the harmfulness of this man-made substance for a plethora of reasons. Last year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added styrene, a synthetic chemical found in Styrofoam, to their list of known human carcinogens. Aside from potentially causing cancer, Styrofoam is non-biodegradable, and according to the University of Washington takes 500 years to decompose.
In contrast to its inexpensive production rate, Styrofoam is neither easily or cheaply recycled. Environment California reported that less than one percent actually gets recycled in the U.S. The remaining 99 percent takes form of litter, occupies space in landfills or finds its way into a waterway. Upon contact with water, the Save our Shores organization reports that Styrofoam breaks down into smaller pieces, absorbs toxic chemicals, can be mistakenly ingested by wildlife and thereby enter our food chain. It can also block an animal’s digestive tract, and cause death.
An investigation by the Earth Resource Foundation shows that the manufacture of Styrofoam releases hefty amounts of ozone into the atmosphere. Aside from polluting our environment in more than one way, chemicals in Styrofoam can also infect our bodies. Green Living reports that the styrene toxin found in Styrofoam is known to leach into warm foods, potentially causing contamination and a health risk to humans.
It’s a wonder why the University of Tampa’s cafeteria would knowingly allow students to have food come in contact with this toxic, petroleum based substance, that cities, states and major corporations have already suspended their consumption of. There are plenty of nontoxic, alternative materials that could serve the same purpose, which would ultimately benefit the health of the environment and UT students alike. The elimination of Styrofoam from the dining halls on campus could be the first step forward in the city of Tampa’s long overdue contribution to ban this overrated matter.