Who did this?
Who tipped a bag of polystyrene balls all over the path and what did they think was going to happen? We would hate to think it was done with malice but to think it was done in total ignorance of the consequences is even scarier.
Polystyrene is inert; as far as we know, it does not decompose at all. Here is a chart that shows how long common objects take to decompose; styrofoam, near the bottom, is polystyrene by another name.
Doesn’t the word FOREVER scare you?
What does happen to polystyrene is this: over time it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes microplastic. Microplastics are bits of plastic, some invisibly small, that are constantly shed by all the plastic and plastic-related stuff we use every day. The latest scientific studies have found it in every part of the planet’s ecosystem, where it does unmeasured damage. We haven’t worked out a way to get rid of it.
In the soil, invertebrates and worms take it down further and further; they drag it down with leaf litter, they either eat it and excrete it unchanged, or it sticks to them or they burrow through it and it falls down the holes after them. Eventually it will reach the groundwater. Groundwater is rarely static; it moves. It fills streams, rivers, ponds, the reservoirs we take our drinking water from and it eventually runs down to the sea.
Every living thing on the planet uses water and our water is increasingly contaminated with microplastics. It might have taken centuries but eventually those polystyrene beads we picked up on Tuesday would have been contaminants in the sea. Please don’t leave your plastic waste in the park; please take it home with you and recycle it.