Polystyrene Foam really does get a bad rep when it comes to discussions about saving the environment. We recycle plastic bottles and bags, cardboard and paper, glass and metal containers. Yet most people follow the myth that polystyrene foam is not reusable or recyclable…yet nothing is further from the truth. This has led a number of states and cities to propose foam bans, like the potential Arkansas foam ban, that would impact local businesses and hit them where it hurts—in their wallets!
Not only is polystyrene being re-purposed to create other products, there is advancing chemical engineering technology that can melt polystyrene into a usable liquid polymer that is used as a spray sealant which is environmentally friendly. Instead of banning this ever useful product, we need to support the efforts to find new purposes for recycled polystyrene foam. Here are just some of the ways polystyrene is being recycled:
- Consumers can reuse their polystyrene cups and plates by washing in soap and hot water
- Save your packing peanuts for re-use when mailing packages.
- If there is an EPS recycling center near you, petition your local reps to start bulk pickups.
- Some grocery stores accept EPS products for recycling; if one does exist consider starting neighborhood drives to collect polystyrene products.
- Involve your school district in recycling their polystyrene foam products as a way to teach children about the environment.
- Purchase polystyrene wood products that are made from EPS (expanded polystyrene) like benches and fence posts.
Recycled products must be separated into different bins and the same is true for the different polystyrene foam products. All plastic and foam products have a resin identification number stamped on them. Polystyrene has an SPI code of 6 and is typically referred to as Styrofoam (which is a trademark of Dow Chemical). You will find this foam used in foam drinking cups and plates, egg containers and food coolers because it is such a good insulator to cold and heat. Since it is rigid yet lightweight, it is used as a loose filler packing material or a molded to fit and protect the product.
Consider starting a polystyrene foam recycling program in your neighborhood as a perfect way to rally your friends and neighbors around a worthwhile cause while helping the environment.