Styrofoam is non-biodegradable. According to Washington University, Styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose. With enough Styrofoam cups produced each day to circle the earth if lined up end to end, the potential for major ecological impact is great.
The Earth Resource Foundation reports that Styrofoam manufacturers were the fifth largest producer of toxic waste in 1986. Over 90,000 workers face exposure to the effects of styrene, the material in Styrofoam, each year in industries such as rubber and fiberglass manufacturing companies.
Health effects from exposure to styrene are irritation of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract and gastrointestinal problems. Chronic exposure affects the nervous system, causing symptoms like depression, headache, fatigue and weakness, and minor effects on kidney function and blood.
Styrene leaches into foods and drinks served in Styrofoam food containers, and according to the Earth Resource Foundation, the manufacture of Styrofoam releases large amounts of ozone into the atmosphere, causing respiratory and environmental issues. In addition, with billions of Styrofoam cups used yearly in convenience stores, restaurants and lunchrooms ending up in landfills, some cities have banned the use of Styrofoam.