Styrofoam is a type of plastic commonly used to manufacture insulated disposal plastic cups as well as packaging materials. Millions of tons of Styrofoam are produced and disposed of every year.
But what separates Styrofoam from other types of plastic and is Styrofoam recyclable?
What is Styrofoam?
Styrofoam is a brand name for a type of expanded polystyrene or EPS.
Polystyrene is simply plastic that has been derived from petrochemicals and crude oil, just like any other plastic.
Most people come across foam polystyrene on a daily basis as it is used to contain takeaway food and drinks due to its thermal performance properties.
Can you Recycle Styrofoam or Polystyrene?
Yes, Styrofoam and polystyrene can be recycled.
The problem is that it can’t usually be recycled as part of your curbside waste recycling program. On most polystyrene packaging you will notice the number 6 within the recycling symbol.
This means that it is a specific type of plastic and needs to be recycled as such. It cannot be recycled with plastic bottles or other similar types of recyclable plastic.
In fact, foam polystyrene can actually contaminate other plastic and cause it to be rejected in recycling plants.
Because of this, many people think that their only option is to throw used polystyrene into the wastebin.
Where Can EPS Be Recycled?
There are some locations where EPS can be recycled. The Foodservice Packaging Institute have information on foam recycling and their website displays locations that accept different types of EPS. Some shipping stores will also take back polystyrene packaging peanuts for reuse in their store.
Some local governments and recycling companies have drop-off locations specifically allocated to foam packaging. Your local government will be able to tell you whether there are any locations near you. You can also check if your domestic waste recycling program is an exception and EPS is accepted curbside.
Polystyrene and Styrofoam take more effort to recycle but it can still be done. Take the time to learn where EPS can be recycled to do your bit for the environment and prevent non-biodegradable petroleum products from ending up in landfill.
As a last resort, polystyrene can be discarded with your regular household waste.