Styrofoam, often known as polystyrene, is ubiquitous. It is commonly used as the basis for packing material in general and is utilized in the packaging of items for transportation. It’s also utilized as a form of insulation. It is lightweight and has good shock-absorbing properties, yet it is manufactured in large quantities every year, with the majority of it ending up in bins and eventually in landfills.
Despite its popularity, it has the potential to be damaging to the environment. Fortunately, there are cost-effective and ecologically friendly ways to safely dispose of this item.
How Can I Safely Dispose of Styrofoam?
It is so unfortunate that most recycling services and facilities do not accept styrofoam. As a result, it usually ends up in a general dumpsite. Only around 10% of the Styrofoam manufactured gets recycled each year, and packaging materials account for one-third of the average waste.
While governments are working to have recycling facilities accept and effectively recycle the material, there are numerous methods to securely get rid of the material and avoid it becoming a landfill statistic in the meantime.
1. Styrofoam May not Be Recyclable in Your City
Styrofoam recycling isn’t as simple as dropping it in with paper, glass, and plastic recyclables in the green bin. Many cities outright ban Styrofoam, while others merely accept it in designated recycling containers. Because of its low density and weight, Styrofoam is not easy to break down for recycling.
Consider a package of small Styrofoam packaging beads and their propensity for clinging to surfaces, blowing around, or easily scattering. To manage Styrofoam and crush it into a denser insulating substance, specialized equipment is necessary, and not every city possesses this equipment.
2. Look for a Recycler That Specializes in Styrofoam.
Although most local curbside recycling programs do not accept Styrofoam, it is accepted by specialist recycling businesses. Check with your usual garbage disposal firm first to see if they have any specific programs for reusing and recycling Styrofoam before looking for one.
It’s likely that people who reside in major cities will, or at least be able to give you a list of additional local companies to call. If not, you may need to conduct some personal research. To discover a Styrofoam recycler near you, simply Google “Styrofoam recycling near me.” This should yield a list of options within a fair driving distance of your home.
Another method is to search for plastic recycling companies by ZIP code using Earth911‘s search tool.
3. Consult Your Local Shipping Companies.
Even if your town doesn’t have a Styrofoam recycling site, you most definitely have a FedEx or UPS shipping outlet, or a local company that handles package delivery. These stores would frequently accept clean Styrofoam shipping peanuts to repurpose for their own packaging needs because they ship a lot of sensitive merchandise.
It’s a win-win situation: you avoid putting Styrofoam in landfills, while the shipping company benefits from free packing materials. In fact, most of these businesses may provide a discount on products or services in return for the styrofoam.
We’ve put together a few articles on how to dispose of other hazardous wastes. You may want to see the 7 Ways to Dispose of Paint.
4. Styrofoam Packing Peanuts Can Be Reused.
Styrofoam packing peanuts have several uses other than cushioning breakables in a package, and they can be repurposed in a variety of ways. Styrofoam peanuts can be used to re-stuff bean bag chairs, old throw pillows, and stuffed animals that have shed some of their paddings.
When repotting a huge plant into a hefty ceramic container, covering the bottom quarter to third of the container with packing peanuts can help to reduce the volume and weight. Following that, dirt may be placed on top and flowers can be planted as usual.
Even at an outdoor party or barbecue, Styrofoam peanuts can even be used in place of ice in a plastic container or bucket to keep canned or bottled drinks chilled.
5. Styrofoam Food Containers Are Given a Fresh Lease on Life.
The Styrofoam containers used to serve food are well known to people who order takeout, and they may be reused in a number of ways. Before reusing these containers, make sure they’re clean and dry.
Take the cover off a Styrofoam box and use the bottom section as a craft corral to keep messes in one place for small children who want to color with markers, paint, or work with glitter.
Are your child’s new shoes causing them pain? Trace the shape of their feet onto the top of the Styrofoam box with a pencil, then cut out the shape, and then use the styrofoam as a temporary shoe insert.
6. Consult Your Neighborhood’s Elementary Schools and Daycares.
As previously said, styrofoam has a lot of artistic potential, and arts-and-crafts time is a frequent part of most elementary school, kindergarten, and childcare programs.
If you have a large collection of Styrofoam plates, containers, cups, or peanuts, call local schools and daycares to see if they are ready to accept donations. If this is the case, make sure that all of the Styrofoam is nice and clean before delivering it. The waste can then be turned into pencil holders, holiday ornaments, vases, photographs, or cutout crafts by the kids.
7. Sell the Styrofoam
Nothing beats getting paid to dispose of waste. The American Chemistry Council maintains a list of companies that buy and recycle EPS (and other forms of plastic).
You can get a quote for EPS at $2.80 per pound with the designation “CA Redemption Value.” If you can get a good deal, you might wish to start a neighborhood recycling program.
There are many other toxic waste that you may not know about. You can check our Hazardous Waste Disposal Section to discover other toxic waste and how to get rid of them
Frequently Asked Questions for Styrofoam Disposal
Is it Better to Burn or Throw Away Styrofoam?
Some people believe that burning Styrofoam is a better option than recycling or properly disposing of the packing material. However, when expanded polystyrene is burned, black carbon and carbon monoxide are released into the atmosphere.
These may be extremely poisonous and harmful, which is one of the reasons why this type of disposal is not commonly employed. It’s also why you shouldn’t try to burn Styrofoam or pack peanuts yourself.
How Long Does Styrofoam Take to Decompose?
Nobody knows for sure how long styrofoam takes to disintegrate. This is due to the fact that it was created and first used in 1941.
Experts assume it will take at least 500 years to decay, but since it has only been around for 80 years, this cannot be verified. It has also not been debunked so far. Other specialists believe it will never degrade or break down.
How Do I Know Which Styrofoam to Dispose of?
On your styrofoam, look for the triangle recycling emblem. The number 6 is often imprinted on recyclable plain white Styrofoam marked with a triangle. This foam may be transformed into plastic, exported overseas to be used to build something else, such as a picture frame, and then returned to the United States for sale.