Is Styrofoam recyclable?

If you have tried to recycle as much as you can, most probably you have found the fact that most local waste hauler doesn’t take polystyrene, especially the foamed polystyrene. It also has a commercial name Styrofoam which is actually a brand name from The Dow Chemical Company. Styrofoam is mostly available as plastic #6 on various items like cups and foam for take-out containers.

Because of the above fact, a lot of people think that Styrofoam is not recyclable. So, is Styrofoam recyclable? You might be surprised, but yes, Styrofoam is recyclable.

What Is A Styrofoam?

What Is A StyrofoamStyrofoam is actually a kind of expanded polystyrene or EPS. The name came from the trade name of a foam product which is suitable for housing insulation. However, all the foam based polystyrene products are Styrofoam in some way. This material is mostly used for making packaging and insulation materials, and food containers. Some people also use Styrofoam cup which is also polystyrene. EPS is one of the best materials that protect products while shipping by providing the cushioning effect.

Polystyrene is a plastic that has a petroleum base. The main building block of this plastic is a synthetic chemical, Styrene by name. Now, you may read below to find out the answer to the question, is Styrofoam recyclable?

What kinds of polystyrene is recyclable?

If you are eager to know what kinds of polystyrene are 100% recyclable, follow this list.

  • Floor, Wall, and Flat Roof Insulation
  • Disposable Razors
  • Fish-Box Packaging
  • Packaging Balls
  • Insulation and Seating In Cars
  • Shape Moulded Packaging
  • Planks and Blocks of Fill Material

These are the most common polystyrene products which are compatible with the recycling process. There are other products as well. Actually, most kinds of polystyrene products are recyclable. The fact here is that some require lengthy and complex procedures to recycle.

Is Styrofoam Recyclable?

Is Styrofoam RecyclableYou have Styrofoam waste in your house and want to know, is Styrofoam recyclable waste management? Styrofoam might look soft, and you can tear it apart easily. However, the molecular level of EPS plastic is pretty strong and does not break easily. However, it is definitely possible to reuse them by recycling. If you do the process correctly. It is a good idea not mix Styrofoam with other materials while recycling.

Being in production since 1947, Styrofoam is now popular for a variety of reasons. Because of its lightweight and insulating property, the application of Styrofoam is increasing worldwide. We typically regard these vast amounts of Styrofoam as garbage after a single use. For this reason, you will find different polystyrene products are floating on shores and other places, and the amount is increasing every day.

In countries like the USA and UK, people don’t usually recycle Styrofoam as they bung it with other recyclable plastics. The reason is that Styrofoam requires a different set of machinery and not every country has that.

Because of the high price and complex logistics to build polystyrene compacting machines, it is still missing in many countries around the world.

Is Styrofoam Recyclable In NYC?

Living in New York City (NYC) means you have world largest sanitation. So, you might wonder, can you recycle Styrofoam in NYC? According to NYC Department of Sanitation, you cannot recycle Styrofoam products or any other foam plastic and plastic #6 products such as trays, cups, service containers, foam packing peanuts and protective packing blocks in NYC. You are also unable to recycle flexible plastic items like toothpaste, cosmetics, sports ball, footballs, etc.

However, you can recycle rigid plastics like plastic bottles, jars, jugs, caps, lids, rigid plastic food containers and other rigid plastics products there.

Is Styrofoam Recyclable In NJ?

A lot of people living in New Jersey (NJ), have the question “Is Styrofoam Recyclable In NJ?” If yes, then is packing Styrofoam recyclable too? Well, According to the Borough of Madison, New Jersey (NJ), you can recycle certain Styrofoam materials in NJ. Accepted Styrofoam materials include white, clean EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) which we know as plastic #6, packaging peanuts, Packaging Balls, Planks and blocks of fill material, Floor, wall and flat roof insulation and other clean EPS Products.

However, you cannot recycle Styrofoam food containers, no matter how clean that is. For those are going to recycle Styrofoam and other foam material items there. It is a reminder of the borough that, they sent all recyclable foam materials to Foam Pack Industries which is in Springfield, New Jersey (NJ).

Styrofoam’s Impact on the Environment

Styrofoams Impact on the EnvironmentWe know that Styrofoam is somewhat less than good for the environment. Despite the knowledge, we tend to use more and more Styrofoam products because of its lightweight and excellent insulation properties.

Styrofoam is actually EPS Plastic (some kind of expandable polystyrene). It is a petroleum-based plastic, and the fundamental ingredient of polystyrene is styrene which is harmful to human health.

According to the  IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) and U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), those who have exposures to styrene regularly have faced severe health problems which include;

  • Eye Irritation
  • Irritation of the Skin
  • Gastrointestinal Effects And
  • Vexation to the Upper Respiratory Tract

Symptoms

Chronic and acute exposure may cause other complications and may affect the nervous system. The symptoms may appear as;

  • Fatigue
  • A headache
  • Weakness
  • Kidney Malfunction
  • Depression

Styrofoam food containers are popular for taking out food, but harmful chemicals can still contaminate food by leaching into it affecting health problems.

Apart from human health, Styrofoam is very harmful to the environment as well. It is a non-biodegradable material which means it last 500 years or more on the planet contaminating the land, sea, and air. Even if we can dispose of them in the landfills (after a thousand year may be), the wind and rainwater can carry the harmful EPS and styrene back for further pollution.

Such instances of contamination may affect not only humans but also fish, birds, and other animals as well. So, what is the solution here? The answer can be minimizing the use of Styrofoam products. We know that is not going to happen. Thus, recycling can be an ideal way to use the present Styrofoam waste to create new materials so that the waste will not contaminate the environment. Recycling also guarantees that there will be less requirement of Styrofoam production.

When Disposal Options Become Essential?

While handling with Styrofoam waste material, the first thing is to do is to contact with the nearest recycling center to know whether they accept plastic #6 or foam plastic for recycling. You also need to be specific about Styrofoam food containers as a lot of recyclers do not take food containers.

Now if you fail to find any Styrofoam recycling center near you, garbage disposal will be the only choice. While disposing of, make you have separated Styrofoam products form other waste products and if possible make them clean.

Styrofoam Recycling Process

Styrofoam Recycling ProcessStyrofoam recycling is a complex process, and it requires costly equipment to do the recycling task. The most direct way to recycle the polystyrene products is to reuse them. However, you cannot re-use some products like Styrofoam cups and forks. On the other hand, packaging materials are ideal for reusing for a lot of times. Although, packaging peanuts can easily be collected and reused once again.

Recycling plants for Styrofoam are rare, and there are only a few plants out there in the US and Canada. These plants collect Styrofoam products from school, colleges, hospitals, supermarkets, and other places. Read below to learn more about their recycling process;

  • First, they gather The Styrofoam materials (EPS Waste) that they need to recycle. When the amount is plenty enough for the recycling plant, they shipped it to the plant.
  • Styrofoam materials then inspected separately from contaminants like paper and food.
  • Then they sort the Styrofoam waste materials that need washing
  • Then they put these EPS waste to the grinder which is then processed to the fluff. Any EPS waste that is not yet cleaned is washed and then dried.
  • Friction and heat are then used to melt the fluff and remove all the air.
  • The clean and melted Styrofoam material is then pushed under heavy pressure into a die that has a very small opening
  • From the opening of the die, the polystyrene strands are extruded
  • The strands of polystyrene then cooled with cold water and chopped into pellets which are used to manufacture Styrofoam materials again.

The main recycling process is done. These chopped pallets are then shipped to the manufactures facility where it is used again for making more Styrofoam materials like toys, sun visors, building insulation, etc.

Conclusion

Styrofoam is a handy daily product for a long time. Because of its lightweight and high insulating property, Styrofoam is suitable for different purposes. Starting from packaging to food container, Styrofoam is in use everywhere. However, significant drawbacks here is that Styrofoam or EPS Plastic is harmful to the environment and the human body as well. For this reason, it is essential to recycle Styrofoam.

After reading this article, I believe you have got the answer to the question is Styrofoam recyclable? And also I think you have gained sufficient knowledge of how to recycle Styrofoam and their impact on the environment. You can always contact us if you need more information.

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