Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), often mistakenly referred to as “Styrofoam” (trademarked by the Dow Chemical Company), is commonly associated with a negative environmental impact. Opposite of popular belief, polystyrene is 100 percent recyclable. In fact, according to the Expanded Polystyrene Industry Alliance (EPS-IA), an average of 15 percent of polystyrene foam is recycled each year. In this day and age, it is more important than ever to be mindful of recycling this everyday-product and keeping it out of landfills.

The Recycling Process
Once collected, manufacturers and processors use eco-friendly technology, such as a densifier, to compress recycled polystyrene foam. A growing number of businesses and community recycling programs are using this new technology to further lower costs while shipping larger volumes of polystyrene. Next, the compressed recycled polystyrene is then reprocessed into building insulation, architectural molding, plastic lumber and many other products which are then sold to manufacturers. The process is simple and safe for the environment.

Recycled Foam in Action
There are a number of organizations that are finding ways to repurpose used polystyrene foam to further protect the environment. For example, non-profit, Sustainable Surf collects used polystyrene packaging and recycles it into Enviro-foam surfboards. Other convenient foam recycling programs, such as Dart Container’s CARE (Cups Are REcyclable) and Recycla-Pak, make collecting and recycling foam easy to help reduce greenhouse gases and minimize landfill use. As a result, it is no surprise that the EPS-IA recently indicated a steady rise in the rate of polystyrene recycling in its 2012 bi-annual recycling report.

The United States is not alone in its efforts to recycle and reuse polystyrene foam. Canada, for instance, has decided to continue its Post-Consumer Polystyrene Recycling Pilot Project that provides residents with recycling centers in which they can dispose of their used foam. The foam is then densified and reprocessed into new products. In Kenya, home builders are replacing their typical wood panels with ones made from recycled polystyrene foam products in order to decrease expenses and preserve the surrounding forests.

Importance of Recycling
It is more important than ever to recycle polystyrene foam in order to reduce the amount of solid waste that enters and remains in landfills. Even though foam makes up less than 1% of public solid waste based on both weight and volume, every effort counts.

By raising awareness of the benefits of foam recycling, building a network of recycling partners and creating more market availability, it is possible to significantly increase the amount of foam being recycled each day. To date, polystyrene foam is being recycled in about 65 cities across the United States.

Does your city recycle foam?

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