Floral foam aka. oasis foam, often used as a base for flower arrangements in events, is damaging to the environment and should be avoided entirely or exchanged for something eco-friendly.
Why Floral Form Is Harmful To The Environment
Floral foam is made by combining polystyrene beads with a liquid foaming agent, typically a mixture of formaldehyde and phenol. Other additives, such as dyes and pigments may also be used to give colorful appearances to the foams so that it blends with various flower arrangements.
Polystyrene is a synthetic polymer heavily used in plastics production due to its low cost. It is not biodegradable and improper disposal of it can contribute to plastic pollution. The green-colored floral foam, even though they give you the impression that they are eco-friendly, they are still made from polystyrene.
The raw material for floral foam, polystyrene, is derived from non-renewable fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. The extraction of fossil fuels always leaves a significant environmental impact and can often be associated with several natural habitat destructions.
Polystyrene foams require the use of several toxic chemicals to make the product more efficient, which includes the use of benzene, styrene, and ethylene. They are hazardous to human health and the environment, especially in the manufacturing phase.
There are many ways floral foam can be harmful to human health and wildlife. It starts right in the core when it is manufactured and handled. The chemicals used in floral foams can create skin irritation and eye burns, especially in the people who are working in those factories.
When these foams are cut into smaller pieces, it releases particles of dust which can cause respiratory problems. Problems like these might not be potent at first but prolonged exposure can result in several health problems, including lung damage.
It is also important to note that floral foam is not a food-grade material. Using floral foams on food tables or decorations can unknowingly pose a health risk for its chemical content.
What To Replace Traditional Floral Form With
An eco-friendly and functional alternative to traditional floral foam is a wet foam that is made from plant-based materials like polyurethane. It will be just as effective as traditional foam for flower arrangements, but with the added benefit of naturally degrading over time.
In addition, these foams can be easily cut and shaped to fit any container or design, providing versatility for floral arrangements of all kinds. It is also non-toxic and safe to handle, making it a healthy and sustainable choice for both florists and consumers.
A lot of people do not know that Smithers-Oasis, the largest producer of floral foams, does also have a few sustainable products in their catalog besides the normal ones. For example, the “Maxlife” floral foams biodegrade entirely within 567 days of disposal.
It ships in eco-friendly paper packaging and can be purchased in various densities. The word Maxlife stands for improved flower life.
What Makes Plant-Based Floral Form Sustainable
Biodegradable foam is designed to biodegrade over time naturally. It uses plant-based polymers like polyurethane rather than non-biodegradable polystyrene used in traditional foams. These polymers are broken down by bacteria and fungi and then converted into carbon dioxide, water, and other harmless substances.
It is worth noting that the biodegradation of floral foam is not instantaneous. It can take from months to years to fully dissolve depending on how it is disposed of. So proper disposal is still a mandatory duty for the consumer.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
Renewable sources like corn and soy are the main raw materials behind a biodegradable floral form. The mixing, molding, and cutting stages of these foams release fewer harmful substances and byproducts, compared to petroleum-based polystyrene.
Most companies who produce biodegradable foam are also conscious of the number of renewable resources they are consuming and some of them try hard to offset them by restoring the consumption as much as possible.
The Tradeoffs Of Using Biodegradable Floral Form
The first and topmost reason why biodegradable floral foam might not be accessible to all florists has to be the price. It is significantly more expensive than normal foams that are used in arrangements.
If you, as a company, are providing flower arrangement services, it might be financially difficult to offer the same but with an eco-friendly base for those flowers. It is also not widely available so it could be problematic when you have to buy a big batch.
Eco-friendly floral foams use plant-based materials which might look or feel different from the ones that you are used to. Some people find that it holds less water and is more fragile.
The fact that companies sell foams in different varieties, a lot of these problems can be solved just by reading the product description and getting the right kind of product for your need.