Provided by Google Translate
Provided by Google Translate


A Voice for our Ocean

Ocean Conservancy’s Plea: ‘What the Foam?!’

Visuals reveal a striking message, amplifying the call to halt Florida’s alarming plastic foam deluge

English Español Français Deutsch Italiano Português русский বঙ্গীয় 中文 日本語

Pass-a-Grille Beach, FL (September 24, 2023) – Ocean Conservancy unveils a stark visual message today: footage capturing hundreds of plastic foam pieces arranged to spell out ‘What the Foam’. The foam pieces were all collected in Florida during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup® (ICC) last weekend. The imagery illustrates the alarming prevalence of plastic foam containers, often called by the brand name “Styrofoam.”


A new report just released by Ocean Conservancy estimates 5.6 billion pieces of plastic foam are used by Americans each year and more than 2.4 billion pieces of plastic foam foodware contaminate American recycling systems. In the past 10 years, during the ICC, volunteers have collected more than 29 million tiny pieces of foam from waterways. The exact sizes of foam aren’t recorded, but if each piece was the size of one S-shaped packing peanut, it would mean:

  • The foam – when spread out – would completely cover more than ten football fields!

“Plastic foam food ware has already been banned in 10 states. Our state, perhaps more than any other, feels the tangible impact of this foam menace, as it seeps into our ocean and disrupts the delicate balance of our marine environments,” said Jon Paul ‘J.P.’ Brooker, Florida Director of Conservation for Ocean Conservancy. “It’s high time we get this foam fiasco under control and work collectively towards a foam-free Florida for the sake of our oceans, our wildlife, and our future generations.”

Plastic foam takeout containers were the seventh most collected item globally during last year’s ICC. This marks the highest ranking for foam since it began to be documented separately a decade ago. Troublingly, new Ocean Conservancy studies show over half of all Americans try to recycle this unrecyclable plastic and when they do it contaminates other recyclables.

Days after millions of pieces of plastic foamware collected during last week’s ICC, Ocean Conservancy is saying “What the Foam” as it calls for a ban on plastic foam food ware in Florida and across the nation.

“It’s time to say farewell to foam once and for all,” said Dr. Anja Brandon, Associate Director of U.S. Plastics Policy at Ocean Conservancy. “At the same time, we need to make sure we’re not just replacing these materials with other non-recyclable single-use plastic items. Banning plastic foam is a great first step, but it must be coupled with investments in reusable programs, as well as upstream redesign standards to ensure that all the products and packaging we use are actually reusable or recyclable.”

A media kit with photos, b-roll, and a downloadable version of the report can be found here. The 2022 International Coastal Cleanup data report can be found here.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Plastic foam foodware – including cups, plates, and takeout containers – are among the most common types of plastic littering our beaches. Since 1986, International Coastal Cleanup volunteers have collected 8,709,519 of these items globally. Smaller foam pieces are even more common: since 2013, Ocean Conservancy has tracked the types of “tiny trash” items volunteers collect from beaches and waterways, and in that time, 29,082,728 foam pieces have been recorded globally.
  • Ocean Conservancy and University of Toronto Trash Team’s International Trash Trap Network – which was founded in 2021 and is a consortium of trash capture devices operating in rivers and other inland bodies of water – also records data on “tiny trash,” For two years running, foam pieces have been the top tiny trash item collected, with 49,801 pieces recorded in 2022.
  • Despite state and local level bans, plastic foam is being used widely: 83% of Americans reported receiving some plastic foam foodware with their takeout/food delivery in the last two weeks. Of that, approximately 31% reported receiving foam in all or most of their takeout orders.
  • Using 2021 Ocean Conservancy survey results that found 22% of all takeout and food delivery orders contain plastic foam foodware, Ocean Conservancy estimates that at least 5.6 billion pieces of plastic foam are used by Americans each year.
  • Knowledge of how to dispose of plastic foam foodware is low. More than half of Americans reported putting plastic foam in their recycling bin in the last two weeks; and 35% reported that they always attempted to recycle foam, totaling to roughly 2.5 billion pieces of foam foodware contaminating recycling systems each year.
  • There are high levels of concern about plastic foam’s impact on humans and wildlife. 76% of Americans reported feeling concerned about plastic foam containing harmful chemicals, and over half of Americans reported feeling very concerned about animals and wildlife ingesting microplastic foam pieces.
  • Americans are hungry for solutions. More than 70% of Americans across party lines would support a national phase-out of plastic foam; and nearly 70% of Americans would be willing to consider participating in a reusable foodware program if restaurants offered it.

In 2022, nearly 470,000 volunteers worldwide collected over 8 million pounds of trash across 15,508 miles of coastline. The top items found globally were cigarette butts (1,860,651 collected), plastic beverage bottles (1,175,045 collected) and plastic food wrappers (998,661 collected). This year’s International Coastal Cleanup will take place throughout the month of September. Visit for more information.

The Math (for the packing peanut example):

The largest side of a typical S-shaped packing peanut measures 1 11/16 in. x 1 1/2 in.

That’s an area of 2.53125 square inches

Multiplied by 29,082,728 pieces of foam, that’s 73,615,655.25 square inches or 511,220 square feet.

A football field without the end zones (which is typically the way it’s used for big comparisons like this) is 300 ft. x 160 ft., or 48,000 square feet

511,220 square feet of foam laid out on the ground would fill the area of ten football fields (480,000 square feet), with more foam left over.




About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on FacebookX (formerly known as Twitter) or Instagram.

Media Contact

Roya Fox

(206) 948-7874



Trash Free Seas

We’re working on innovative solutions to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in our ocean, threatening ocean wildlife through ingestion and entanglement.

Your gift can help save our ocean

Our ocean faces many threats like the onslaught of ocean trash, overfishing and ocean acidification. With the help of donors like you, Ocean Conservancy is developing innovative solutions to save our ocean.

Back to Top Up Arrow