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From Styrofoam to Surfboards – Students Make a Difference One Board at a Time

17 February 2012 admin 5,255 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

By Catherine Landaas, Grade 7

Seventh grade is a time to thrive and improve. The teachers are amazing and the projects are so much fun! In Mr. [Eric] Harrington’s science class students are given the opportunity to create and present an ocean science project. The gyre, urban runoff and shark finning are only a few of the topics. Two particular teams decided to do their projects on creating an environmentally-friendly surfboard. When surfboards are being shaped they release toxic fumes that can cause diseases. Surfboard shapers can suffer from cancer, paralysis, and other harmful symptoms. This project made a huge impact not only at our school, but in our community.

These teams completed various projects. For one of their community service projects they collected more than 100 pounds of Styrofoam, and since it’s around 98 percent air, that’s a lot of foam. The packaging foam was then recycled and sent to Marko Foam. Marko Foam has a foundation called Waste to Waves. All of the foam that was collected was donated to them and they recycled it into several eco-friendly surfboards. Click here for a Care2 article about the students collecting Styrofoam for this project.

It takes about six pounds of polystyrene (EPS) foam to make a surfboard blank. This project was not only about the environment, but about the shapers and riders too. The toxic fumes are very dangerous, so the teams did lots of research until they found a solution. Instead of using polyurethane, they used EPS. Polystyrene is also known as Styrofoam. Styrofoam can be recycled over and over again; this is why it is the best environmentally friendly foam that you can buy.

The teams discovered through research that Styrofoam is not usually recycled and most recycling centers don’t even bother trying to collect it because it is so expensive to transport since it is primarily air. Taking this waste product and creating a surfboard from it made perfect sense to everyone. Epoxy resin is also very toxic. When it is glassed onto the board it releases toxic fumes (VOC’s) into the air. So, instead of using epoxy resin they use a pine tree sap resin. The community service projects that the teams completed have raised awareness and taught people that they can make a difference one board at a time.

The environmental solution was to create a cost efficient, environmentally-friendly surfboard. With the help of local shapers Timmy Patterson and Cole Simler, the two teams shaped surfboards from the recycled EPS foam. The teams are having their boards glassed with the bio-based pine sap resin from Entropy Resin and will be surfing them soon. The plan is to use these boards to bring awareness to the toxins and chemicals used in the surfboard manufacturing industry. Most often surfers are unaware of the chemicals right under their feet.

Collecting Styrofoam was not the only project the teams did. One of the teams went down to T-Street in San Clemente and interviewed surfers. They asked them if they knew what they were surfing on, how it effects the environment, and how they could make a difference. Turns out 99 percent of surfers don’t know what they are, what their board is made of or how it effects the environment. The other one percent is Mr. Harrington! They also created a poster with the advantages and disadvantages of balsa wood, polyurethane, polystyrene and enviro-foam. The other side of the poster revealed the chemicals in each of the blank boards. The posters were then put in surf shops and beaches in Dana Point and San Clemente. The teams also put together movies. You can watch them at www.IZecoboard.webs.com and www.shredthechemicals.com.

On Friday, February 8, St. Margaret’s hosted a special guest. Mr. Scarpitto, from Entropy Resin came and spoke to the Middle School about surfboards, surfboard chemistry and the best choices for the environment. The assembly was a mix of student presentations and information provided by Mr. Scarpitto. Entropy Resin is an eco-friendly company that uses pine sap along with soy products instead of toxic chemicals. This was also the solution for the two surfboard teams. Mr. Scarpitto spoke to the Middle School about where the sap comes from and why it is great for the environment. The two surfboard teams talked about foams and great alternatives that will keep our environment safe and clean.

This project has changed the lives of many surfers and made a big impact on my surfing experience, as well. Before I started this project I knew very little about the effect surfboards have on the environment. This research project has changed my life. It has taught me that I can make a difference one board at a time.


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