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"Styrofoam is toxic to manufacture and constitutes, by volume, as much as thirty percent of landfills worldwide. Without the presence of certain solvents, it will last practically forever without breaking down. Finding ways to recycle styrofoam at home, without waiting for "the government" to come up with a solution, is practical and possibly necessary for the health of the biosphere" - the internet

So styrofoam is a pretty big problem once it has been used up as cups/packing peanuts/whitegoods packaging, but I am thinking that aquaponics could provide a great way to make a big dent in the amount of stuff going into landfills by finding another useful application for it. The number of commercial farms and backyard DIYers using floating rafts is only going to increase...

So I'm wondering what opinions you guys have on styrofoam? Would you eat a lettuce that was grown on a re-purposed styrofoam raft?

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"Foamed polystyrene does not biodegrade significantly, but it is also not a major part of the waste stream.

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, polystyrene food service packaging, which includes foamed polystyrene, accounts for less than one-half of one percent of municipal solid waste (by weight).

While some foamed polystyrene material is reused (packaging peanuts), most material used for food or beverage containers are one use materials. Recycling is technically possible, but it is not economically justifiable at this time.
Because almost all material in landfills degrades at an extremely slow rate, the fact that foamed polystyrene does not break down rapidly is not a significant problem when it is disposed of in this manner.

When the material becomes litter, however, it does represent a significant environmental problem."

"Most municipalities sanction landfills as the only legal dumping site for Styrofoam waste. Every day, approximately 1,369 tons of Styrofoam goes into U.S. landfills daily. By volume, Styrofoam takes up 25 to 30 percent of total landfill area. These figures make Styrofoam one of the most environmentally unfriendly types of waste around." link at base

The EPA declared that styrofoam is the fifth largest source of hazardous waste all the way back in 1986!! I wasn't even aware it was a problem until a month ago!

Styrofoam is a trade name for the compound polystyrene. Styrofoam = polystyrene, just to clear up any confusion.

Cheers for the info and the link! The thing that makes it so expensive to recycle is actually the shipping after it has been collected. Yeah it weighs hardly anything, but it is mainly air and takes up heaps and heaps of space. According to one video I saw you can only get about 1 ton of it on a truck! The company that made that video reckons they have new tech that can compress it, which is promising for the future at least.

So it might be 0.5% of solid waste by weight, but by volume it is much much more, closer to 30% by volume from what I am reading. It is not very dense at all!

In fact, at a density of 1.05g/cm3 that 1369 tons (american ton) is equivalent to 1241940000 grams meaning the daily volume going into landfill is 1182800000 cm3 or 41770.2 cubic feet!! Over a year that's more than 170 olympic sized swimming pools! And it doesn't break down for a looooong time! Portland, Oregan has actually banned it from use in restaurants completely!

It's one of those little environmental issues that you don't hear much about, probably because we all drink coffee out of polystyrene cups and starbucks doesn't want to scare us. I don't know if starbucks has a 'bring your own travel mug' program, but they definitely should! It would make a huge difference. However the area where aquaponics could potentially make a difference is to provide a use for the recycled stuff instead of it going into the ground.

Anyway, there is a company in Denver that has a 60% recycled poly product which I'm pretty impressed with so far. I'm hoping to have a play with it and see if it holds together as an aquaponics raft for DWC. The problem with recycled polystyrene is the chemical bonds in the initial product are so strong that it is hard to get any recycled product to bind together. If this 60% recycled stuff can replace the 100% non-recycled stuff being used that would be huge for the environment. It could reduce poly waste by two thirds off the bat if everyone started using it. I'm thinking enviro-minded aquapons might appreciate the chance to jump on board, I'll give it a go and let you guys know. Definitely beats using non-recycled stuff.

Just another potential big environmental plus for aquaponics!

I'm starting to think using another material entirely might make more sense. I am feeling the urge to play with bamboo...

styrofoam might not be biodegradable but it actually has a large water holding capacity and is heat resistant making it a great candidate as a bulking agent in compost.  probably shouldn't put too much into any compost and this is more for big systems, but occasionally composts will dry themselves out because of the heat they generate. Styrofoam has the ability to hold water in the middle of some of these big windrow piles that have to potential to shut down.

I'm with you Tim. I want my system to mimic nature as much as possible, and I have always felt that styrofoam is a big compromise. I was thinking about a rebar grid to support the span across the DWC beds and then some kind of natural material (like bamboo or wood) to hold the net pots. 

If the rebar was to leech iron it might be ok, but my guess is that the iron would not be available to the plants.

Tim Day said:

I'm starting to think using another material entirely might make more sense. I am feeling the urge to play with bamboo...

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