Commonly referred to by the brand name Styrofoam (incorrectly) and generally considered the least environmentally responsible packaging material, expanded polystyrene has a multitude of uses in the packaging and food service industry—but what happens after you finish that cup of coffee? Did you know polystyrene can be recycled?
Even though recycling centers for expanded polystyrene (EPS) exist, the majority of products made of EPS end up in landfills, where they take up large volumes of space with their 90%-air composition. Although most pickup recycling services do not accept EPS, often designated as “#6 plastic-expanded”, there are several other options for recycling.
- Small Business Drop-boxes. Dart Container has an EPS recycling program that provides special collection boxes for businesses and offices. The boxes also double as pre-paid shipping containers, making returning a full box convenient and low-cost. Promotional displays and other materials are also available from Dart.
- Reuse Materials. Keep the packaging materials for your own use, and encourage others to do the same. Unfortunately most recycling centers do not accept packaging peanuts, but some businesses will reuse them—like many UPS stores. To find a business that will accept used packaging peanuts, call the Peanut Hotline (really!) at 800.828.2214. The automated system will ask for a zip code, and then give you the address of nearby locations that will accept your packaging peanuts for reuse.
- Drop-off Locations. There are several locations in West Michigan where EPS can be returned for recycling; five locations are in the greater Grand Rapids area. Most locations only accept clean, non-food containers with no added coloring. Flame-retardant packaging material is not generally accepted either, due to the chemical treatment.
- Mail-back Services. If there are no convenient drop-off locations near you, EPS pieces can be mailed to recycling centers. Check here for a list of addresses.
For more information about recycling expanded polystyrene products, check out these websites: