This post is part of an attempt to do something like 100 recycling tips for damn near anything in something close to, anyway, 100 days. We’ll see how that goes. When the 100 Recycling Tips are all published here on Easy Ways to Go Green, we’ll do a master list so that every link exists on one single page for everyone to be able to link over to, or to use as a reference guide when questions on how to recycle different things in your life inevitably come up.
How to Recycle 100 Common Things: #19 Recycling Styrofoam or Polystyrene
With the purchase of many things online, especially for gift giving or holiday time, comes the arrival of Styrofoam packing and shipping materials into the home. Although the prevailing notion is that Styrofoam is not recyclable, that isn’t necessarily the truth. First, it’s interesting to note that Styrofoam is actually a trademark of the Dow company, while the material itself is called polystyrene — much like the difference between Band Aid and adhesive bandages, or Kleenex versus facial tissues.
Research around the Internet warns that polystyrene, made from petroleum, is in reality highly flammable; part of the reason behind this is that the chemical benzene (a known human carcinogen), is used in the production of this material. Many curbside programs will not accept Styrofoam, so it is important to check before leaving the often bulky chunks in the bins — and word to the wise, don’t burn polystyrene as it allows the release of toxic gases into the environment. The materials are not easily broken down by the environment, and animals often ingest chunks which cause their digestive tracks to get blocked, leading to starvation and potentially death.
Although in nearly all cases, recycled polystyrene simply ends up right back in the mix as more packing materials, recycling this material eliminates the need for further production. This quality marks polystyrene as a single use material. The best recycling in-home that you can consider, is to re-use polystyrene for packing materials whenever needed.
Helpful Links on Recycling Styrofoam or Polystyrene:
Search by “Polystyrene” and “Your City Name or Zip Code” at Earth 911 and find the closest recycling center near you.
Check out info on the APFR, for tips on locations for recycling Styrofoam or Polystyrene.
Helpful resource at Plastics Markets for recycling Styrofoam or Polystyrene, including a buy-back program.
An article on Treehugger for what to do with Styrofoam or Polystyrene.
Dow Chemical offers an entire site on crafty options and things to do with Styrofoam.