Pass that Styrofoam – no, wait – expanded polystyrene cup

Kristin's Comment

Recently our newsroom received an email from one of our readers that amused us all on a slow Friday afternoon.

It certainly started quite the lengthy discussion around the editorial department and has made for some great conversation.

Apparently, there is no such thing as a Styrofoam cup, cooler, or even packaging.

You may be thinking ‘wait a minute!’ But nope, that disposable cup of coffee or hot chocolate that you’ve drank out of is not Styrofoam.

Styrofoam is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company and is a type of foam insulation used in construction.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually touched genuine Styrofoam in my life. Which let me tell you, came as a bit of a surprise.

So just what are those coffee cups, coolers and packaging then you ask?

They’re actually expanded polystyrene, the catch-all name for those white, heat-retaining cups and the packaging that we’re told we can’t put in the bins at our recycling depots.

But maybe we can?

Those labels clearly say ‘no Styrofoam’ but what if it’s not really Styrofoam? What if what we’re really dropping off is expanded polystyrene?

Then is it a free for all?

I’m kidding of course, we know what you mean Comox Strathcona Waste Management. But still…the world is full of loopholes.

And full of brand names – such as Styrofoam – being used as generic terms.

That thing that cleans the ice during the intermission at the hockey game?

It’s not necessarily a Zamboni unless it’s made by the Zamboni company.

Olympia makes a popular machine often seen at the rink but it’s not actually a Zamboni, it’s an ice resurfacer.

And that adhesive bandage you use to stop the blood flow when you cut yourself? It’s not really a Band-Aid unless it’s made by Band-Aid brand.

And we’ve all been offered a Kleenex for our nose or for our tears. But is it really a genuine Kleenex? Likely not.

Unless it’s the Real McCoy, made by the Kleenex company, what you’re probably using is simply just a tissue.

Other commonly known brands that we often use generically include Chapstick, Bubble Wrap, Rollerblades, Scotch Tape, Velcro, Dumpster, Frisbee and Post-Its.

So to the reader who drew our attention to the proper use of Styrofoam – thank you, it was a lesson learned and it sure got us talking.



Since I’m fortunate enough to have this platform to reach out to all of you, I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude for the response I received to my last column regarding Ash Wednesday.

To all of the people – some of whom I’ve never met before – who took the time to call, comment on our website, speak to me face-to-face, and even deliver a hand-written letter, thank you.

Your unexpected support was overwhelming and truly meant a lot. I’ll admit I did have second thoughts as I began to write, wondering if I could really get away with writing about such a topic. But I’m happy to say I’m glad I saw it through and was able to provide some enlightenment.

All of your support has encouraged me to write more about my faith.

Thank you!