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Can You Recycle Styrofoam?

Posted by Junk King on Oct 29, 2019 12:36:00 PM



Recycling can sometimes be a challenge. Not everything is acceptable and it’s hard to know what is or isn’t. For example, can you recycle Styrofoam?

Conscientious homeowners and others want to be good “eco-citizens” and most strive to do their best at practicing proper recycling. For those with designated recycling bins the job is a bit easier. 

But sometimes you come across waste products that seem to defy categorization for the bins. 

Plastic Recycling is a Numbers Game

One notorious culprit is plastic bags. Depending on the material, most of these cannot be recycled and certainly not in your residential waste management bin. 

According to a post at How2Recycle,

“Plastic bags, wraps, and films can't be recycled in your curbside recycling bins. But, you can take some of these items to local retail stores where they collect plastic grocery bags for recycling.”

Much of this material is made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is number 2 plastic or low-density polyethylene (LDPE), number 4 plastic. The problem is that plastic bags, film and other soft plastics are difficult to recycle because of their form.

Because plastic bags are lightweight and they tend to get blown out of bins and carriers. In addition, because they’re thin and flexible, they tend to get snagged or tangled in recycling machinery.


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Plastics are categorized according to the plastic resin ID code that is made up of seven types. Type 1 and 2 plastics are quite common and readily recyclable. You can usually find the type symbol on the packaging and they look like this:

398px-Symbol_Resin_Code_1_PETE.svg (1)

However, the next three types are problematic plastics when it comes to recycling. So, what are these plastics? An article from RecycleNation states:

“Type 3 plastics include vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), type 4 are low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and type 5 are polypropylene (PP). PVC is used to manufacture food wraps, vegetable-oil bottles and blister packages, while LDPE is found in plastic bags, shrink wrap and garment bags. PP makes up items such as bottle tops, refrigerated containers and some food wraps, carpets and bags.”

The last type, number 7, includes “other” plastics. These are products with the number 7 or are numberless plastics that are often made from a variety of resins.

But What About Styrofoam?

Glad you asked!

Plastic number 6 is polystyrene and better known as Styrofoam. There are a variety of polystyrenes and they are found in items such as disposable plates and cups, carry-out containers, meat trays, and egg cartons. Surprisingly, the same type of plastic resin is used for aspirin bottles and CD jewel cases. 

Unfortunately, number 6 plastic - particularly Styrofoam - has become known as one of the most difficult plastics to recycle.


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In a question and answer column at Recyclebank, it was noted that,

“The trademarked name Styrofoam, owned by The Dow Chemical Company, actually refers to a unique kind of polystyrene, which is extruded instead of expanded. Extruded polystyrene (XPS) is designed to be used in building materials and is not found in consumer foam cups or take-out containers.

But many people still use the name to refer to expanded polystyrene (EPS). EPS has gained a notoriously bad environmental reputation because very few recycling programs accept it, and it can sit in landfills for centuries…”

Foamed polystyrene (EPS) or what most of us erroneously refer to as “Styrofoam” is marked as plastic number 6 on container items like foam cups and take-out boxes.

Q. So, can you still recycle the stuff?
A. Yes. Maybe…  

The problem is that most municipal waste and recycling facilities do not accept Styrofoam for recycling. In fact, many cities have banned these products completely and more are following the trend. 

However, there are options and the EPS Industry Alliance website provides a handy location map application that will allow you to find a business or facility near you that will take EPS waste materials. 

And putting them into your municipal recycling bin can do more bad than good.

According to an article on the Recycling Partnership’s website,

“In most curbside recycling programs, “Styrofoam” is part of a longer list of recycling contaminates (items that cannot be recycled curbside, that are placed in the recycling bin).  These unaccepted materials do more harm than good when recycled curbside by causing entire loads of recycling to be rejected and making it harder to recover accepted recycling material.”

So, what do you do with it if you don’t have the means to separate it all and take it to a facility that will recycle it? 

Depending on where you live, some local grocery stores may have an in-store program for recycling the foam packaging that comes from the products they sell. And some shipping companies will take back the packing peanuts (made of Styrofoam!) in the store.

In addition, a number of local governments and recycling businesses have drop-off locations specifically for foam packaging.  Check with your local government to see if they have any locations near you, or if it’s accepted at your curbside.


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Junk King - Your Choice for Junk Removal and Junk Recycling

When your junk removal requirements are bigger than the trunk of your care, you can rely on Junk King to take care of it for you.

Junk King is proud to be North America’s greenest junk removal service. We pioneered recycling based junk removal in 2005 and have been going green ever since. We sort each and every job for metals, e-waste, paper, household goods, textiles, furniture and appliances, in our recycling warehouses.

But “going green” also means we donate, re-purpose, and reuse everything we can. In addition, we run many of our trucks run on biodiesel, a domestically produced fuel made from environmentally friendly non-petroleum, renewable resources.

At Junk King, we are committed to leading the way to help keep our planet clean, green and beautiful for generations to come.

Are you ready to get rid of those old appliances? It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3!

You can make an appointment by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865). Our professional and insured junk removal team will come to your home and we’ll call 15 minutes before we arrive on site. Once we arrive we’ll give you a free estimate based on how much room your junk takes up in our truck, with no hidden fees.


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Topics: Recycling, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, residential trash, household waste, recycle styrofoam

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