Can “Styrofoam” be recycled?

If you get take out, pick up eggs from the grocery store or receive packages in the mail, you most likely end up with what you think is “Styrofoam.”

So, now that you have this so called “Styrofoam,” what do you do with it?

You have possibly heard it is not recyclable, but you have also heard it lasts forever in a landfill.  You flip it over and there it is, the glorious recycling symbol with a number six inside.

Boom – it must be recyclable and in the bin it goes! (screaming, Noooooo!)

The truth is, those foam egg cartons, meat trays, peanuts, or any other type of foam, is not recyclable in your curbside recycling bin.  There are some exceptions, but very few local governments accept them curbside.

In most curbside recycling programs, “Styrofoam” is part of a longer list of recycling contaminates (items that cannot be recycled curbside, that are placed in the recycling bin).  These unaccepted materials do more harm than good when recycled curbside by causing entire loads of recycling to be rejected and making it harder to recover accepted recycling material.  Find out what other materials could be causing harm to the recycling process here.

“Styrofoam”– what is it?

We now know that Styrofoam is not recyclable in our curbside bin but then why does it have a recycling symbol on it?

Those foam cups and trays that many of us refer to as “Styrofoam”  is actually polystyrene and it is made from a petroleum and chemical mixture, like plastics.  Polystyrene is also comprised of a lot of air, which is what makes it so lightweight.  Actual Styrofoam is a trademarked name that actually refers to a unique kind of polystyrene, that is designed to be used in building materials.

Since polystyrene is comprised of petroleum, it does have properties that make it recyclable, but it has to be taken to the right location.

Here is where it CAN be recycled!

Many local grocery stores have a store take-back program for the recycling of the foam packaging that comes from the store and shipping companies often take back the packing peanuts in the store.

Some local governments and recycling companies have drop-off locations specifically for foam packaging.  Check with your local government to see if there are any locations near you, or if your program is an exception and it is accepted curbside.

Find out what can be recycled in your program here, place a recycling bin right next to your trash bin and send your recycling material on the journey of a lifetime!

Pretty sure you already know what to throw in your recycling bin? Check your recycling knowledge here.