Plastic if left in the ground will take hundreds to thousands of years to break down. There are a couple of ways that we can break down styrofoam. We experimented with acetone, erupting volcanos and having some spooky Halloween science fun. Check it out!
Let’s see if I can explain this experiment better than I did in the video…
What is styrofoam?
Styrofoam is a type of plastic. It is a kind of expanded polystyrene. Polystyrene is a polymer made from monomer styrene. It is made of long strands of styrene molecules with lots of air pockets.
What is acetone?
It is a chemical that acts as a solvent that breaks down polystyrene. It is most often found in nail polish remover. (You will need 100% acetone for this project.)
Where can you get it? Gallon or just go buy 100% Acetone nail polish remover from Dollar Tree.
Acetone dissolves the bonds that hold styrofoam together. When it is poured on the styrofoam it falls apart, releasing the air, and takes up less space. The styrofoam is turning back into a liquid.
We had some fun demonstrating this experiment by erupting styrofoam volcanos.
We found that painting the cones with Sharpies worked better than paint. The wet paint and glitter kinda blacked the chemical. Pouring the acetone on, instead of using droppers works best.
This is a great project to do around Halloween!
Since acetone breaks down styrofoam (which we know is bad for the environment) why don’t we just use acetone to break styrofoam down? Glad you asked. Well, acetone isn’t good for the environment either.
What is a natural way to break down styrofoam? Answer= Mealworms
Make sure you do this activity in a well ventilated area.