Styrofoam Man

Download the Video Teaching Guide PDF/Word

MAIN TOPIC OF VIDEO:  Styrofoam, Its Uses, Its Impact on the Environment, and What To Do About It

Episode15 copy



1. What is Styrofoam? Be as specific as possible.

2. What are the uses of Styrofoam? Be as specific as possible.

3. Why have cities such as San Francisco ban Styrofoam as food takeout containers? Be as specific as possible.


1. How can Styrofoam harm animals and humans? Be as specific as possible.

2. What else can you use besides Styrofoam as your takeout food containers? Be as specific as possible.

3. What are the environmental benefits of using paper containers for food instead of Styrofoam containers? Be as specific as possible.


1. How can the production of Styrofoam lead to air pollution? Be as specific as possible. (Hint: focus on the opening part of the clip)

2. How can you be part of the movement to reduce Styrofoam use in the community? Be as specific as possible.

3. Why is Styrofoam man shown with DDT, Plastic Bag, Paint Chips, and CFCs in clip 6:17? Be as specific as possible.



1. Styrofoam is a product made from polystyrene (PS). If you look at the bottom of a Styrofoam cup, you will see PS. It is a type of plastic. All plastics are made from petroleum.

2. Styrofoam has many uses. It is used as a packaging material as seen in the video where the entire box is filled with Styrofoam beads and the product is quite small. It is used a hot drink container because it insulates well and that is also why it is used a takeout food container.

3. Single use Styrofoam containers have been banned in cities in the United States and around the world increasingly because they do not biodegrade in landfills and if they can into waterways which they often do, they can break up into very small pieces which animals can ingest causing harm to them.


1. Styrofoam when ingested by animals do not break down in their bodies. It can choke animals who ingests it. Secondly, Styrofoam can greatly harm humans during its production where workers can receive lung and skin irritations. Furthermore, the microwaving of Styrofoam containers (how else do you heat up your food in today’s busy world) can release chemicals used in the Styrofoam itself.

2. You can either use paper-based containers which are biodegradable. However inconvenient this method is, it is the cheapest and more biodegradable method: reusable containers. Instead of using a new Styrofoam cup each time to get coffee, bring your own coffee cup. In some countries, consumer can bring their own container to be filled when they get takeout.

3. It is all about leaving a smaller footprint on the planet. I like to use this motto with students: refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle. Recycling takes energy. If you eat takeout, reuse your container or use biodegradable paper containers.


1. Styrofoam is made from petroleum products. In the production process, when hydrocarbons are burned, carbon dioxide is produced and then released into the environment amongst other pollutants such as sulfur. Hydrocarbons are the key components in the production of polystyrene products including Styrofoam.

2. It is all about awareness. Starting with yourself, your family, your friends, your classmates, etc. , create a culture where you know where and how the products you used are made. In the case of Styrofoam containers, you know about the ban of Styrofoam in certain cities so figure out the legislative process in which to get it ban in your city.

3. Styrofoam man is shown with all those folks because there all petroleum based products that have been banned or greatly reduced because of their negative impacts on the environment. None of these products biodegrade.


1. Have students bring in different Styrofoam products. Have them do a two column entry in their science journal or on a piece of paper where they list the possible uses of the Styrofoam products and have they list the biodegradable/reusable alternative.

2. For middle school students, have them research the impact of Styrofoam products on the ecosystem. Have students focus on both terrestrial, marine, and bird species. Students can make a PowerPoint presentation where they can identify three animals from each category and discuss how Styrofoam has impacted these animals.

3. For high school (chemistry and environmental science students), have them research the production of Styrofoam and other polystyrene products. The production process generates quite a few air pollutants that does not always get public attention. The attention has been the effect of Styrofoam on aquatic ecosystems but there should be equal weight given to air pollution that results. Students should be well aware that anytime hydrocarbons are combusted as there when Styrofoam is produced, carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas is produced thereby further enhancing the greenhouse effect and further warming the planet.


1. Learn the effects of solid and hazardous waste on our environment and what can be done. Download the Case Study PDF/Word.

2. Have students determine the density of different types of plastic. Download the lab PDF/Word.


Credit: This teacher resource has been adapted from content originally developed by Chung Khong.


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