How to dispose of Styrofoam

Styrofoam, disposable foam beverage cups, foam carry-out containers, foam egg cartons and packaging material/shipping peanuts are not recyclable through the Authority's program. Please place in your trash for disposal. Do not place in your recycling container.

What is Styrofoam?

The term “Styrofoam” is actually a Dow Chemical Co. trademarked form of polystyrene foam insulation.

Also known as Expanded Polystrene (EPS) foam, Styrofoam is basically one form of polystyrene plastic. In turn, polystyrene plastic is usually coded as #6 plastic.

The properties of Styrofoam that make it a useful material – light weight, low cost, durable – make it hard to recycle.

Given the light weight of Styrofoam, the cost of transporting Styrofoam to a recycling plant (given the relatively large volume of Styrofoam per unit of weight) makes it often cost prohibitive to send Styrofoam for recycling.

Styrofoam used in food packaging is usually contaminated and would require cleaning before they can be processed for recycling. This adds further cost to the process of recycling Styrofoam, making it economically less viable.

Availability of Recyclable Styrofoam

According to “EPS takes up less than 1% of the total municipal solid waste stream by weight and volume.”

The polystyrene industry claims a recycling rate of about 12 percent, according to the Alliance for Foam Packaging Recycling, but that includes scraps from EPS manufacturing, which are immediately reused. 

 ***Only 2% percent of a foam package (ie. Styrofoam) is polystyrene. The rest is air.***

The EPS Industry Alliance’s website clearly states the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers “does not accept meat trays, cups, egg cartons or other disposable food service items for recycling.”

If the Authority were to accept Styrofoam for recycling, all material coming in would need to be separated.The only Styrofoam that recycling markets would accept is clean white packaging. Colored foam, packing peanuts, food trays/containers and cups would not be accepted for recycling. 

Issues with Styrofoam Recycling

  • Obtaining the volume of appropriate/clean material with no contamination
  • More and more businesses are getting away from Styrofoam and using other materials
  • Separation and sorting of material
  • Having a place to store and keep until ready to densify
  • Transportation – very light, unstable and expensive to haul
  • Markets are very low and typically not economic to recycle
  • Identification of Styrofoam is difficult as starch-based alternatives look and feel very similar to Styrofoam.