When you’re aiming for a zero-waste lifestyle, questions like ‘is styrofoam recyclable’ are crucial. You can opt for eco-friendly solutions, like coffee in a reusable mug instead of styrofoam. But sometimes, it’s unavoidable!
In these scenarios, it’s important to know what you can and can’t do with styrofoam.
EPS or expanded Styrofoam is not biodegradable. It can be recycled but needs to be recycled separately via specialized equipment.
Some ways to recycle styrofoam include dropping it off at a shipping location like FedEx or finding other local organizations that have drop-off recycling locations.
Styrofoam is a Dow Chemical Trademark name. It’s also the household term for expanded polystyrene (EPS) used to make disposable items like cups, and plates.
Did you know?
The trademark Styrofoam actually refers to a special type of polystyrene that is extruded, not expanded. Extruded polystyrene (XPS) is used in building materials.
Styrofoam is made from styrene (a petroleum-based product). It’s a number 6 plastic that does not biodegrade.
Recycling requires specific equipment. Before that, a machine removes air from the EPS to make it shippable.
Otherwise, it ends up in landfills, dissipates, and becomes toxic.
Skyroam is recyclable, but never put styrofoam in the single-stream recycling bin. It goes into the general waste bin. Otherwise, it contaminates the whole recycling bin.
What’s weird about styrofoam is that it has a recycling symbol on it, but we can’t put it in a recycling bin.
Recyclable items that can be put into a single-stream recycling bin include:
- Items with a recycling buyer or market in the region
- Items (when commingled) can be automatically sorted
So why can’t you put styrofoam in a recycling bin?
Density and contamination.
Styrofoam is about 95% air. It’s not only expensive to store and ship, but its recycling is also costly. The containers shred into tiny bits, which are impossible to place in a recycling machine. When processed with other recycled products, it contaminates them and reduces their values.
Most recycling centers do not take styrofoam and its recycling is not convenient. Not even for non-profit organizations like municipal recycling facilities. Also, material recovery facilities use automated sorting. This makes the broken styrofoam pieces difficult to sort and recycle.
How Do You Dispose of Large Styrofoam?
You can dispose of large styrofoam pieces at a recycle & reuse drop-off center. These centers accept:
- Plastic foam made with polystyrene: coffee cups and egg cartons
- Plastic foam made from polyethylene: the stuff used in packaging goods
The recycling and reuse centers use a machine to shred and melt the plastic foam. The process contracts the polystyrene foam and removes air. Once compressed, it can be shipped to a recycling center.
Packing peanuts and soft foam are usually not accepted at these facilities. They’re hard to contain, especially as styrofoam is processed outside. The peanuts litter the place and can make quite a mess in the facility.
How to Dispose of Packing peanuts then?
You can take the packing peanuts to a shipping facility nearby like UPS or FedEx. There, it can be reused for packaging.
Will Vinegar Dissolve Styrofoam?
No, vinegar cannot dissolve styrofoam because it’s not hot nor concentrated enough.
If you want to dissolve styrofoam, then Acetone can take care of that. However, it’s not an ideal solution for the environment. Also, things can be tricky if you’ve got a lot of styrofoam at hand.
Do Not Burn Styrofoam!
Burning styrofoam is a fire hazard and the worst way of disposing of styrofoam. Research shows that smoke from burnt styrofoam can affect our nervous system and lungs. In small amounts, it does not affect the environment or health, but that doesn’t make it any better.
Along with health and fire hazards, burning styrofoam causes carbon emissions. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the most abundant of the greenhouse gases. These gases capture excess energy, leading to global warming and ultimately climate change.
You can throw away styrofoam, but with extreme caution. It usually doesn’t go with the recyclables, except if the recycling program in your area allows that.
Even so, most styrofoam eventually ends up in a landfill. Styro-Go has developed a technology to recycle polystyrene (EPS). It’s a mobile polystyrene recycling company that collects polystyrene and responsibly disposes of it.
They have custom trucks with self-contained recycling units. Each 5-ton truck can carry and process as many as 5 full-sized transport trailers. You put EPS into the truck, which compresses it and densifies it. The dense material then goes into a machine that turns it into 1 cubic foot of bricks also called ingots. These bricks are then shipped to a recycling facility.
You Now Know How to Recycle Styrofoam
Styrofoam is considered one of the most difficult-to-recycle plastics? It cannot be shipped due to its size and is not economically feasible to recycle.
Any environmentally conscious person should try to avoid it at all costs. Using plastic bags instead of carrying an eco-friendly one may seem easy. But, our future generations shouldn’t have to pay such a big price for our small convenience.
The journey to living a sustainable life isn’t easy but don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re already making a conscious decision to improve, which is why you landed in this article.
Remember to be kind to yourself in this journey.