From your coffee cup to your takeout container, styrofoam is everywhere. But is styrofoam recyclable? Here’s the short answer: yes, styrofoam can be recycled. However, there aren’t many recycling facilities that accept it because it isn’t cost-effective to recycle.
Here’s everything you need to know about styrofoam recycling — and how you can help make the world a better place with a few simple swaps.
How To Recycle Styrofoam
Also called foam #6, plastic #6, or expanded polystyrene (EPS), styrofoam is widely used in many industries because it’s convenient — and cheap. In fact, it’s so ubiquitous that you might be surprised to learn how many products are made from this plastic. Think about all the stacks of coffee cups hiding out in the storerooms of coffee shops, or the insides of almost any package you’ve received in the mail. Odds are high that they’re comprised of styrofoam, and that’s a lot of waste!
Recycling is measured and valued by the ton at most facilities. Unfortunately, since styrofoam is so light and bulky, it’s difficult for facilities to manage all that EPS. However, you can check online to see if you live near a drop-off location through the EPS Industry Alliance’s website. The Plastic Loose Fill Council also has an online tool that will show you if you live near any retail locations that accept clean, dry styrofoam. To get EPS reuse information by phone, call the Plastic Loose Fill Council’s Peanut Hotline at 800-828-2214.
Not sure where to start? Check with your local mailing store. They would probably love to accept your clean, dry packing peanuts for their own shipments.
The Environmental Impact Of Styrofoam
Why should you bother with styrofoam recycling? Well, Americans throw away millions of polystyrene cups annually … and that’s not including all of the other EPS waste we use throughout the day.
Styrofoam is a lot like a plastic bag: it can sit in landfills for centuries, and it’s toxic when burned. Take a look at the full impact of styrofoam in the infographic below from Green Cell Foam.
Styrofoam Recycling At Home
So, can styrofoam be recycled? Absolutely — and it’s good for the planet, too. But all that recycling can be a hassle if you don’t live close to a facility. Here are some simple swaps you can make to cut down on your styrofoam waste:
- Always bring a reusable coffee cup (we’re looking at you and your styrofoam coffee cups, Dunkin’ Donuts)
- Whenever possible, ask for your restaurant leftovers to be wrapped up in foil or paper instead of styrofoam carryout containers
- Donate your packing peanuts to a mailing facility (call ahead first), or reuse them for your own shipments
- Purchase products that don’t use styrofoam packaging
- Reuse styrofoam around your home. It’s a great crafting medium, and you can use it as a base for potted plants to help with drainage
- California residents: donate your EPS to Waste to Waves, a nonprofit that turns styrofoam into sustainable surfboards
How do you recycle styrofoam? Let us know in the comments!