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8 reasons to ban Polystyrene (aka Styrofoam)

1. It is a known hazardous substance.

Like all plastics, Styrofoam is a petrochemical; it comes from petroleum, which is known to cause developmental, hematological, renal, and immunological disorders.

    Styrofoam is made of puffed #6 plastic: “polystyrene” (PS), made ‘of many styrenes’. Styrene is classified a known hazardous substance and has many ties to cancer (it’s hard to conclusively tie a distinct chemical to cancer, since cancer is still very difficult to understand and testing is done on non-human animals). Styrofoam is also made up of other hazardous chemicals, such as benzene.

    The scope of ramifications of these toxins on the human body are still unclear. However, effects on non-human animals are unanimously harmful, and people who live and work in environments with high concentrations of styrene have higher instances of cancer, neurological issues, headaches, depression, fatigue, and more.

2. It leaches into food and drink.

Especially when paired with liquid and heat, a Styrofoam container’s toxins (like benzene and styrene) seep into the contents. But even with cold or dry food, contact with Styrofoam is unhealthy. A huge portion of our food contains styrene contamination.

3. It’s in the air and on your skin.

The most common route of exposure to these harmful chemicals is simply inhalation. You also get exposure each time you touch it, since the chemicals can seep into your body through your skin.

4. It’s toxic just to make it.

Its industry ranks the 5th largest creator of toxic wastes in the USA. That includes liquid and solid wastes.

5. It’s a ‘principle litter’ – meaning it’s everywhere.

Because Styrofoam is so light and crumbles easily, it’s almost too easy for it to end up out in our woods, rivers, and prairies. Once it’s there, it’s there to stay. Styrofoam will break down into microscopic styrenes and other harmful chemicals, and they will linger in the soil and water for centuries to come. It’s an especially serious problem in our world’s oceans.

6. It still depletes the ozone layer.

You may remember the ruckus around banning CFCs in the 90’s? Well, Styrofoam now utilizes its chemical cousins instead – which still do harm to the ozone layer. Styrene has a way of evaporating its fumes into the air, which is bad for our lungs as well as the ozone layer that protects us from the sun’s cancer-causing rays.

7. Just like with oil, there are spills.

Styrene- and benzene-related illnesses occur in much higher concentrations at spill sites. What’s worse, the full effects of exposure to spillage are still unknown.

8. Even in the landfill, it’s not safe.

According to the EPA, as styrene leaches from landfills into our drinking water, it causes liver, kidney, or circulatory system problems. Minorities and people living in poverty are more likely to live near landfills and factories, and are disproportionately affected.

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Litter is defined by Tennessee law as perishable animal and vegetable waste, garbage, perishable and nonperishable solid waste and tobacco products.


Section 39-14-503. (a) Mitigated criminal littering is littering in an amount less than or equal to five pounds (5 lbs.) in weight or seven and one-half (7.5) cubic feet in volume. 

  • criminal littering is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of fifty dollars ($50.00)

Section 39-14-504. (a) Criminal littering is littering in an amount more than five pounds (5 lbs.) in weight or seven and one-half (7.5) cubic feet in volume and less than or equal to ten pounds (10 Ibs.) in weight or fifteen (15) cubic feet in volume.

  • littering is a Class B misdemeanor, up to a $500 fine

  • In addition to the penalties established in this section, the court shall require a person convicted under this part to remove litter from the state or local highway system, public playgrounds, public parks or other appropriate public locations for not more than eighty (80) hours. The court, in its discretion, may also a person convicted under this section to work in a recycling center or other appropriate location for any stated period of time not to exceed eight (8) hours.

Section 39-14-505. (a) Aggravated criminal littering is littering:

  • In an amount exceeding ten pounds (10 lbs.) in weight or fifteen (15) cubic feet in volume; or

  • In any amount for any commercial purpose

  •  Aggravated criminal littering is a Class A misdemeanor, except in the following circumstances, in which case it is a Class E felony, up to a $1,500 fine.


Tennessee Toll-Free Litter Hotline

Tennesseans who are tired of trash along state roadways now have a new tool to report litter bugs. The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced today a new toll-free litter hotline, 1-877-8-LITTER (877-854-8837). The litter hotline is part of the new statewide anti-litter campaign, StopLitter™. The hotline provides a way for Tennesseans to report people they witness littering along the state’s roadways, such as a person throwing a paper cup or cigarette butt out of a window, or an item falling from an unsecured load.

“The new toll-free litter hotline gives citizens the ability to Stop It,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “Now anyone who witnesses a person littering can report it and trigger action to improve the quality of the environment and the cleanliness of our roadways. Tennessee has some of the best roads in the nation. With everyone’s help, we can have some of the cleanest, too.”

Citizens who witness a litter bug in action can call 1-877-8-LITTER (877-854-8837). Callers will reach a recording that asks them to provide information about the vehicle. The information that will be requested includes:

  • license plate number (Tennessee plates only)

  • type and make of the vehicle

  • day and time the incident occurred

  • location where the incident occurred

  • the type of item tossed or blown from the vehicle

TDOT will mail a letter to the registered owner of the vehicle along with a StopLitter™ car trash bag or portable ashtray and other anti-litter information. The letter is a gentle reprimand reminding the recipient that littering is against the law and punishable by a fine of up to $1500.


Click here for more information.

Click here for a complete list of the TN Litter Laws