Recycling Foam and Other Household Items

Most people are familiar with paper, plastic, and glass recycling. In most large cities in the United States these materials are easily recycled. But there are lesser known options to recycle many other household items, with polystyrene foam being one which Kenneth Dart is known for. A recent court decision even overturned a foam ban in New York in favor of recycling the foam instead.

Common Household Recycling

For common household recycling of paper, plastic, and glass, there are usually two options:

  • Curbside Pick-up- items are placed by the curb, either separated by type or not, and the service picks it up.
  • Drop-off- for areas that do not have curbside pick-up, a nationwide network of drop-off locations exists. Visit Earth 911 or Recycle Nation to locate one.


Whether it is curbside pick-up or drop-off, each service will accept different types of materials so be sure to check before placing anything for recycling.

Specialty Item Recycling

While the above items are the most commonly recycled items, there are also options to recycle numerous other types of items. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Electronics (TV, computer, etc.)
  • Batteries
  • Automobile waste (tires, used oil)
  • Food waste
  • Lightbulbs

These items are not usually picked-up through curbside programs and must be dropped off somewhere. Some stores or communities may have drop-off programs, or you may search the nationwide network for a location. You can use the search function on Earth 911 or Recycle Nation’s sites.

Polystyrene Foam

This foam is a common item in most households, from food containers to packaging materials, it has varied uses. However, aside from a few local programs, it usually cannot be picked up with your regular recycling. But there is an ever-increasing array of options for recycling this type of material. These include:

  • Polystyrene Recycling Centers-there is a growing list of locations nationwide, visit EPS Industry Alliance or Foam Facts to locate one.
  • Drop-off- additional sites may accept the material, check Earth 911 or Recycle Nation for specifics
  • Mail-in locations-if you cannot find a local site, there are also various mail-in programs available. See the list here.
  • Loose fill- for packing peanuts, if you cannot reuse them, local stores, such as UPS, may accept them. Contact the Peanut Hotline at 800-828-2214 for more information.

It is estimated that 75% of household waste is recyclable, and yet it is estimated only 30% is ever recycled. As people become more knowledgeable about their options, perhaps this will increase.