Can you use styrofoam as a soil additive? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I am about to move to a piece of land that will have to be built up above the water level in the rainey seasons of winter and spring. I have easy (and Free) access to cardboard boxes that have styrofoam packing in them. The packing is the tiny balls of styrofoam heated together to make a form around the product. My question - Can I run this styrofoam through the shredder and add it to the soil? My concern is chemical additives. I know some will probably float away, but every little bit will help raising the ground level. Thanks for any help. Robin

-- Robin Downing (, April 12, 2002


Are you serious? Please don't do that.

-- Dave (, April 12, 2002.

Ground up wood chips would be better... Less toxic. Check with your power line folks. They do a lot of chipping...

-- Gailann Schrader (, April 12, 2002.

Robin, it's nice you're concerned about chemical additives but what about the fact that styrofoam doesn't decompose and will be around many years after you're forgotten about? You said some might float away. Float away to where? Your neighbors land? Down the creek? How much of that will be blowing around over to your neighbors land? Styrofoam has it's place and uses but this is about the most ridiculous and irresponsible suggestion I've heard of.

Surely you've considered those things. Do you just not care?

-- Dave (, April 13, 2002.

Forgive my ignorance. I don't know what styrofoam is made of. I have been accused of not caring. Wrong!!! If I didn't care, I wouldn't have asked before I put it in the ground. Sorry I bothered you folks.

-- Robin Downing (, April 13, 2002.

Thank you for asking the question Robin. I dont know what styrofoam is made of either but I doubt it is a hazardous toxic material, perhaps we should find out. :-)

-- john hill (, April 13, 2002.

It's not hazardous to health as far as I know unless you're burning it but what about littering? I was mostly taken aback by your statement that "some will probably float away". That doesn't sound very respectful of the land, the waterways or your neighbors. That's why I asked.

-- Dave (, April 13, 2002.

It's very light. What doesn't blow away will float, esp. in a low waterlogged area. It will either float downsteam & tick someone off, or clump up off on 'shore' of the water puddle in a glob that doesn't break down in the enviornment. You will _ONLY_ be making a mess. Yuk. Forget it.


I guess I wouldn't worry much about the chemical part, but it just would _not_ do what you want. It _would_ make a mess of things.

If you are considering this, then be real careful what else you consider using. You could end up classifying your plot a landfill, and that would _not_ be good! You know you become responsible for cleaning up the mess if any of the neighbors start cpomplaining & you take on industrial waste & bury it on your property. Seriously.

What you want is dirt, backfill, dumptrucks of it. You don't want junk.


-- paul (, April 13, 2002.


-- Buddy in e. Ga. (, April 13, 2002.

some comercial potting soil blends use styrofolm beads to make a lighter mix and increase volume,also have seen the peanuts used in container culture to create a draining layer in the bottom of pots and increase areation and volume of media, as has been already stated if neighbors see what you are doing or in the future the buracrats decide that its horrid you could have problems REAL PROBLEMS i work in construction and have seenthe contaminated soild people in full swing! i would think it would be no worse than manny things that get added to soils but we are unshure of chemical release when the styrofoam breaks down so better safe than sorry ,you have seen some of the reaction here . remember a few years ago they came out with the treated lumber everyone recomended using it for making raised beds..... now we know that it realy does leach high levels of arsenic,cadmiun, and other nastys...........they even recomend not breathing the sawdust well remember when it came out it was considerd so benign

-- george darby (, April 13, 2002.

Hi George! You already know that this is not such a good way to go. The suggestion re the powerline people is a good one. They do clear trees and brush away from the lines on a regular basis and are always looking for a place to dump the chips. I get all I can. I know this depends on where you live, also places who deal in wood products have chips sometimes. I get lots of trailor loads of wood chips from Pacific Yurts here in our little town. Just some ideas. I know you already keep your eyes open for "fill dirt". Good luck with this, it is hard to find lots of fill when you need it. LQ

-- Little Quacker (, April 13, 2002.

George, You sure it's not Perlite you see in the soil mixes? Looks just like styrofoam beads, but it aint. :-} I too will put some of the styrofoam peanuts at the bottom of a nursery container to help with drainage and use as filler, but it is contained, not floating downstream

-- laura (, April 13, 2002.

It wouldn't be safe to build on anyway. It crushes down and that would wreak havoc on any foundation. Those of you that are using packing peanuts for drainage in potted plants- please test them before you use them. Some of them are now being made of starch and dissolve readily when exposed to water.

-- Gayle in KY (, April 13, 2002.

Hi Robin,

Even running styrofoam through a shredder (creates some heat) will release noxious gases (that are not always able to be smelled) into the air, so that alone is a good reason not to use it.

As to building up your land, even with clean fill dirt, please be sure you have checked with your county or whatever on proper procedures. You don't want your neighbors suing because you have changed the natural drainage to such an extent that their property is flooded out.

-- GT (, April 13, 2002.

Since nobody else answered the part about what styrofoam is, I will. It's styrene (a plastic) - just puffed up with air. Styrene is what a lot of everyday objects and toys (like model airplanes) are made from. If you drop it in acetone, it dissolves into a very sticky fluid that can be used to glue other plastics. Very nasty stuff though! DON'T PUT IT IN THE GROUND PLEASE!!!

-- Deborah Stephenson (, April 17, 2002.

it takes 500 years for styrofoam to decompose.

-- C (, April 19, 2002.

Robin, Don't apologise for asking the qestion! It was done in good faith and the answers, however tactfully put, may have dissuaded many others from using it.You have done a service.

-- Griff In OR (, April 20, 2002.

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