Recycling Styrofoam – How it Works

the-7-best-indoor-plants-for-air-purificationStyrofoam is a closed-cell polystyrene foam material made for thermal insulation, packaging and other craft applications.  The trademark for the product is held by the Dow Chemical Corporation.  This product is used for a wide range of applications.  Styrofoam is used for insulated sheathing, pipe insulation in addition to packaging and craft applications.  It is also placed under roads and other structures to prevent soil disturbances resulting from freezing and thawing.

The terrible environment legacy of Styrofoam.   Polystyrene is made from petroleum and is highly flammable.  It contains a toxic chemical called benzene.  When Styrofoam is disposed of and thrown into the landfill it takes a very long time to breakdown.   Animals who ingest Styrofoam may incur blockage in their digestive track which may cause starvation and death for the animal.  Styrofoam continues to be a commonly used material for padding in appliance packaging and for storing some different food items.  However, nearly two dozen cities in the United States have banned Styrofoam use because of its highly toxic nature.

Instead of simply tossing Styrofoam straight into the trash you can actually recycle this material.  You can create different items or products using the Styrofoam   Here are a few guidelines for recycling this toxic, non-biodegradable material.

You can use Styrofoam as a fishing float.  You can turn it into a pool, bath or beach toy for your children.  You can slice or cut out simple shapes then use a toothpick or lollipop or other thin stick to mount a sail and use this as a toy in the water.  You can design Styrofoam into rings or squares that the children can use as a float in the pool.

Styrofoam boxes originally used for leftovers can be reused to germinate seeds.  Make a few holes in the bottom of the box then add some dirt, seeds and water. You can make Styrofoam blocks to use in vases to hold unique silk flower arrangements.  You can cut flat strips of Styrofoam for use as plant markers.   You can use Styrofoam meat trays to place under your watercolors, paint, clay dough and other materials.

In the United States. The Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers has organized a mail-back initiative where consumers can send their polystyrene packages or trays through the regular postal service.  However, if you really have a great deal of Styrofoam in your storage room, garage or basement you may be able to make some money from it.  You can refer to the Recycled Plastic Market Database and look for buyers of a wide array of plastic and polystyrene packaging.

It may take some time before the use of Styrofoam and other polystyrene products is discontinued.  In the mean time we need to continue dealing with the Styrofoam that ends up in our hands or on our kitchen tables.  We need to ensure that the Styrofoam does not end up in our landfills.

One good thing is that expanded polystyrene foam packaging is being recycled at a rate of approximately 10 to 12 percent each year.  This is a good start and hopefully the rate of recycling will only continue to increase during the coming years