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Can I Recycle Styrofoam™?

Styrofoam™ can be dropped off at a recycling center.
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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2014
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While it is technically possible to recycle Styrofoam™, it is a difficult process that is not commonly offered in community recycling programs or curbside pickups. Styrofoam™ is a trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, referring to expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), which is also designated as plastic #6.

Though there are various types of EPS used in different ways, the most common type that can be recycled is that which is used for craft materials and packaging materials. Food service packages, such as foam cups, are not usually recyclable and are technically not made from Styrofoam™. If you are unsure whether a piece of Styrofoam™ is recyclable, check for the number 6 inside the recycling triangle somewhere on the package, or check with your local recycling center.

Even though it may be more difficult to recycle Styrofoam™, it is very important to do so. Styrofoam™ is not biodegradable and can remain as a pollutant on our planet for 1,000 years. Because it is so light, Styrofoam™ easily travels around the world and remains floating on top of the water in the ocean. When it does begin to break down, it releases chemicals into the soil and groundwater -- this is why it is so important to properly recycle Styrofoam™.

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The easiest way to recycle Styrofoam™ is to either drop it off at a local recycling center or place it out for curbside pickup. If this is not offered in your community, the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers offers a mail-back program, which offers the opportunity to mail Styrofoam™ to them for recycling for just the cost of shipping. Because Styrofoam™ is so light, it is a fairly economical solution.

Another way to prevent Styrofoam™ pollution is to re-use it yourself, or donate it to someone else to re-use. Some shipping retailers or grocery stores will accept foam to re-use for packaging, and schools might also use leftover Styrofoam™. If you need to mail delicate items, save the foam peanuts that come in your packages and mail them again.

More programs are in development every day to make it easier for businesses and consumers to recycle Styrofoam&trade. If one is not available in your community, take advantage of the mail-back programs or re-use the Styrofoam™ in creative ways until a recycling program is available. If you can avoid it, try to avoid purchasing food containers made of Styrofoam™, because these cannot be recycled and will only pollute the environment even more when thrown in the trash and taken to a landfill.

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lilychen
Post 4

Before I found my first job, I had no idea about how to recycle waste, especially styrofoam or daily plastic packages. In fact, nowadays, there are special companies that manage waste, especially waste plastic, like my company. I'm proud of what I am doing for the environment, and I know a lot about recycling.

anon335090
Post 3

Marko Foam here in California has a waste to wave campaign collecting used non-food EPS (often called styrofoam) and making it into surfboard blanks.

MissDaphne
Post 2

@dfoster85 - I'm glad you brought that up! I have been trying to cut down on my packaging, but it's difficult. Sometimes you just want to pick up som fast food! But most fast food joints are a lot better these days about using paper packaging instead of polystyrene.

As a teacher, I really try to teach my students to reduce their paper usage. They are enthusiastic recyclers, which is all very well and good - but if they write five words on a piece of paper before recycling it, how much have they really helped the environment? I emphasize using the whole page, front and back, and I always run off their worksheets front and back.

dfoster85
Post 1

We are lucky in our community - our curbside pickup takes all numbers of plastic, 1-7. But the thing with Styrofoam is that it has often been used for food. I don't think they can recycle dirty containers, so ones that have food all over them have to be thrown away.

What that means for you as the consumer is that if you *really* want to help the environment, stop *buying* things packaged in foam!

When I was a kid at school, they taught us "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." It's easy to forget to "recycle" was not the first step - it was the last. The very best thing you can do for the environment is not to recycle; it's to use less of everything, including packaging.

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