How do you properly dispose of Styrofoam?

Recycling Styrofoam

Styrofoam is a branded form of expanded polystyrene foam, which is a product composed of plastic and air. Unfortunately,  Styrofoam is a plastic and plastics are harmful to the environment because they do not decompose as easily as paper products. But compounding the problem is that Styrofoam products are difficult to recycle compared to other recyclables. This is the reason why most waste management services forbid residents from placing Styrofoam items with traditional recyclables for curb-side pickup. Therefore, if you ever asked the question, “Can I put styrofoam in recycle bin?“, the answer is no. Now let’s discuss some of the ways people can properly dispose of Styrofoam.

Styrofoam Statistics

  • 25 billion Styrofoam cups are thrown away in the United States each year.
  • Styrofoam often ends up in the water, polluting oceans and killing sea life
  • Globally, over 14 million tons of expanded polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) is produced annually.

Top 5 Ways Recycle Styrofoam

1. The absolute best way to live an eco-friendly lifestyle is to reduce, reuse and recycle. Styrofoam is perfect when it comes to reuse because the polystyrene foam can easily be stored in an office or garage where it can later be reused for packaging material! This is great for businesses who frequently ship products, or anyone sending packages (especially during the holidays). This method of recycling Styrofoam gives the product a second, third, or even fourth life, reducing the need for more expanded polystyrene foam being produced.

2. Styrofoam cannot be placed with bottles, cans, and other plastics, so keep a bin and use it only for Styrofoam or any polystyrene foam (peanuts packaging etc). Also, remove any debris on the Styrofoam because only clean polystyrene foam can be recycled.

3. Go online and search “recycle styrofoam near me” to locate an expanded polystyrene foam drop-off center in your area, or call your county and ask for Styrofoam recycling centers in your area.

4. Contact a local elementary, preschool or arts school and ask about donating Styrofoam for craft projects. Kids love making things, and giving Styrofoam an additional lifecycle is great for the environment.

5. Donate the Styrofoam to local businesses who might be able to use the polystyrene foam for packaging material or some other application.

Is it toxic to burn Styrofoam?

One of the biggest misconceptions circulating is that it is okay to burn Styrofoam in the same way people burn paper. Let us be very clear we state that you should never burn Styrofoam or another polystyrene foam material! The reason is because when Styrofoam is burned it can release unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide and black carbon into the air, especially in the hot environment. This is the reason why it is so important to recycle Styrofoam.

Special incinerators designed to operate an extremely high temperatures do have the ability to burn Styrofoam but those cannot be used at homes and are typically only used in industrial applications.

Additional Recycling Information

If you are interested in learning more about eco-friendly solutions for the home or business then check out our article on how to recycle fluorescent tubes, or electronic recycling tips!

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