Those expanded polystyrene coolers, more commonly referred to as Styrofoam coolers, represent a very visible form of waste, considering how short of a time they last while actually in use, as opposed to how long the plastic pollution from them persists in the environment. All plastics are contributing to the problem, but these foams are a decidedly short-lived solution (keeping stuff cold for brief periods) that can continue to pollute our waterways and wildlife habitat for centuries.
“Styrofoam is resistant to photolysis or the breaking down of materials by photons originating from a light source. Researchers claim that it may take anywhere between 500 and one million years for styrofoam to naturally decompose. So, when you’ve got a large amount of a harmful material and no viable way of getting rid of it, what happens to all the styrofoam produced around the world? It gets dumped into landfills.” – No More Styrofoam
A startup out of Serbia believes it has found one sustainable alternative to the ubiquitous Styrofoam cooler and shipping container, and its product, the WooBox, is not only 100% recyclable, but also puts a ‘waste’ material to good use, and uses a decidedly low-tech insulation method.
The WooBox containers, which are geared initially toward replacing expanded polystyrene foam in the fresh food delivery industry, are made with wood exteriors that feature rails that slot together for transport, while the interior insulation is made from the “leftovers” of the wool industry. Wool is a remarkable natural insulator, and according to the company, some 70% of the wool produced by the industry isn’t up to the standards to make clothing from, and is essentially a waste material, so by creating an industrial product from this wool that takes advantage of wool’s strength but isn’t reliant on its cosmetic features, it puts more of that
waste resource to work.