You have heard about recycling cardboard, glass bottles, and tin, but have you heard about recycling foam? We’re talking specifically about Styrofoam, a type of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS). Can you throw it in your skip bin so it can be sent to recycling centres?
As Styrofoam and polystyrene foam are among the most common forms of plastic, it is essential to learn whether it is recyclable and how it should be recycled. This blog tackles these matters so you don’t have to wonder next time you have foam that needs to be disposed of.
As e-commerce continues to surge, there is a strong demand for reliable packaging materials to ensure the items ordered online arrive intact. This is where Styrofoam comes in. Styrofoam, which has been used for several decades since its introduction in 1941 by The Dow Chemical Company, is a brand name for EPS. Its popularity stems from its ability to cushion and insulate products while remaining lightweight.
Is Styrofoam Recyclable?
Styrofoam boasts numerous advantages, including cost-effectiveness, customisation options, and exceptional insulation properties. That’s why it is one of the most used packaging materials for a range of items, including those that require protection through Styrofoam’s shock-absorbing capabilities. However, it is not without environmental concerns, particularly regarding recyclability.
Can you recycle, reuse, or repurpose Styrofoam to keep it from harming the planet? The good news is, yes, you can. But there’s a catch. It is not easily recyclable, primarily if you rely on traditional kerbside recycling programs in your area. One reason is that it is incredibly lightweight, making it difficult to collect as it often blows away and becomes litter.
Styrofoam is also quite bulky, which can be expensive to transport. Since it is never a good idea to overfill the bin, several recycling centres and programs do not accept the material.
How to Recycle Styrofoam
Despite the challenges in recycling Styrofoam, it does not mean you cannot recycle it in your area. One of the first things you can do is contact your local recycling centres and ask whether they accept Styrofoam. These facilities have specialised equipment used for processing Styrofoam.
Another option is to talk to retailers. Certain retail stores in Western Australia, especially those that sell appliances and electronics, accept old Styrofoam. They will repurpose and reuse the material, so you do not have to worry about disposing of it yourself.
If the foam is still in good condition, the easiest thing to do is to reuse it for home use. Unfortunately, this method does not work well with coffee cups, but you can certainly reuse packaging Styrofoam.
What is Polystyrene?
Polystyrene is a term for plastic derived from styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon. When exposed to heat, monomer styrene molecules connect to form long chains, creating a solid polymer material once it cools to room temperature.
Polystyrene foam, particularly general-purpose polystyrene (GPPS), was developed in the 1930s in Germany and is now used for making disposable cutlery and cosmetic packaging. The other type is high-impact polystyrene (HIPS), a modified form that’s less brittle with extra impact resistance. HIPS is commonly used in food packaging, toys, and refrigerator liners.
Is Polystyrene Recyclable?
Just like Styrofoam, recycling polystyrene is doable but difficult mainly because of its lightness. A massive issue with plastic recycling is that you have to gather the same types of material and sort them using the material container code, known as the resin identification or plastic resin code. Look under the container, and you will find the type of plastic you have.
Styrofoam and polystyrene products are under No. 6. Unlike other plastics, such as beverage bottles (No. 1), milk jugs and detergent bottles (No. 2), No.6 plastics are hard to collect because they are often thrown away with paper and food scraps. In that case, you cannot just drop off polystyrene at a recycling facility.
How to Recycle Polystyrene
Follow the same steps we have given above for recycling Styrofoam. First, contact a recycling centre to learn whether they accept the material. You can also check with local retailers or donate it to schools and organisations, as long as it is clean and in good condition.
The ugly truth is that it is cheaper and easier to produce new polystyrene than gather, transport, and repurpose it, which is why many businesses and recycling facilities do not bother with the material. Unfortunately, it does not do any good for the planet to leave polystyrene and Styrofoam in landfills, so you should NEVER toss them in the recycling bin. Instead, here are a few options:
- Recycle polystyrene by reusing it for packaging.
- Collect packing foam chips and use them. Shippers and delivery companies would sometimes accept packing chips from the public.
- Reprocess or create other items using old polystyrene.
Some companies accept polystyrene, which will undergo heat and friction to melt the material and remove air from it. Once melted, it will be chopped into pellets, cooled with water, and turned into a die with tiny openings. The repurposed material will be sent to other manufacturers, turning the pellets into toys, sun visors, and building insulation, among others.
Get Help from Skip Bin Hire
Although recycling Styrofoam and polystyrene is worth the hassle, there is an easy solution that takes all the extra work from your hands. Hire a skip bin from reliable local businesses, such as Backyard Bins, for a more convenient and organised way of collecting and transporting the packaging materials. A skip bin hire can help in the collection and segregation of the polystyrene foam before taking it to suitable recycling centres.
Another benefit is that skips come in different sizes. Select one that suits the volume of Styrofoam you wish to dispose of, which ensures there is enough space for the safe transport of the materials.
With our years of experience dealing with different types of waste, including Styrofoam and polystyrene, we have established relationships with recycling facilities. This relationship allows us to determine the appropriate locations for recycling Styrofoam, giving you peace of mind in knowing the materials are disposed of correctly and responsibly. Contact Backyard Bins for your skip bin hire needs.
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