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Water that is clean and beautiful is a great place to swim, fish, boat, and have fun. And everyone wants clean water to drink because we need water to live. Understanding how foam cup litter gets into our water is the first step in building a Clean Water Future for our Mobile Bay estuary and its waters. You can help us keep our water clean by learning how trash gets into our water and helping to make sure that doesn't happen.


Foam Cups Are Often Found In Our Waters

Foam cups can get blown or washed into our storm drains that empty directly into streams and Mobile Bay.

Foam Breaks Down Into Small Pieces

Foam breaks down into microplastic particles that are a growing hazard to both humans and marine creatures.

Plastics Harm Creatures in and Around the Water

Plastic debris can harm seabirds, fish, dolphins and other marine mammals by entangling them, some creatures may mistake debris for food and eat harmful plastic bits.

Photo by Foerster - cc-by-2.0

Things You Can Do

Get a Cool Cup to Carry with You

Wherever you go, you can fill up your cup instead of getting for a foam cup that will end up in the landfill, or worse, in our waters. Reusable cups come in all shapes and sizes. Find one that you like, then take it everywhere!

Always Put Foam Cups in the Trash

If you use a foam cup, make sure it doesn't end up in our streams and bayous by putting it securely in a trash can.

Ask For a Recycling Option

Restaurants across the country are implementing recycling programs for foam cups. Ask your favorite restaurant to start offering this. Chick-Fil-A has foam recycling at many of their restaurants. If your location is not offering it, write to the owner and ask for it!

Ask for a Real Cup

Restaurants often have both cups they clean and disposable cups. Whenever you order, ask for your drink in a washable cup instead of disposable foam or paper cup that could end up in our waters.

Photo by Jon Sullivan

Organize with Friends

A group of 5th graders started a petition on asking Dunkin Donuts to stop serving their coffee in Syrofoam cups. The petition received over 300,000 signatures and as a result the chain has implemented foam recycling programs in many stores and are working on a reusable cup program at all its stores.

Use Real or Biodegradable Paper Dishes

When you're picnicking with your friends or family, encourage everyone to choose real cups and dishes instead of foam. Foam cups and plates easily float away and then cause problems in the streams and bays for hundreds of years into the future.

Recycle Foam Peanuts

Even if they do not accept other foam products, most recycling centers accept foam packing peanuts. If you receive a package with peanuts, don't throw them out. Place the foam peanuts in a box and take them to the recycling center closest to you.


Recycle Your Foam

EPS foam can be recycled into new foam packaging or durable consumer goods. You can recycle your EPS packaging by taking it to a specified drop-off location (a program may NOT exist in your area). You can also recycle through the EPS Industry Alliance mail-back program.

How to Reuse Styrofoam (WikiHow)

Finding ways to recycle Styrofoam at home is a practical alternative to disposing of it.

Related Actions

Trash In The Trash

In a rainy place like the Gulf coast, litter and plastic debris is easily washed into storm drains and from there into our streams, bay and Gulf. Making sure our trash gets into trash cans to be processed by city services, helps keep our water clean.

Carry A Lunch Box

Carrying a reusable lunchbox not only saves money, but can help keep bags and wrapping paper from polluting our streams and bay.

Types of Pollution

When water rushes off hardened surfaces, erosion of sediments degrade water conditions and smother and disrupt seagrass growth and the habitat for benthic organisms they provide.

Compounds like oil, grease, and heavy metals take a long time to break down and threaten the health of both aquatic and human life.

Litter is not only unsightly, but it also causes a variety of problems to the ecosystem as it enters our waters where it is often is mistaken for food by fish and invertebrates.

Too much fertilizer, pet waste, and other nutrients in our water often lead to serious problems like lowering dissolved oxygen levels, preventing seagrass growth, and killing fish.

Disease-causing microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and other single-celled organisms, are referred to as pathogens, some, like Salmonella, cause human health problems.

While pesticides are designed to be toxic to certain organisms, they can often be harmful and kill other species in the marine system that are important for the entire ecosystem.