Dear Recyclebank: Are foam platters and containers recyclable? –Joann L.
Dear Joann: Foamed plastic coffee cups, the platters that butchers use to package meat, and the hinged foam containers take-out often comes in, are not accepted in virtually all curbside recycling programs.
Most commonly known by its most recognizable brand, Styrofoam, the generic term for this type of plastic is foamed polystyrene or expanded polystyrene (EPS). It has a Resin Identification Code (RIC) of #6.
But don’t just head to the trashcan with your Styrofoam containers. Dart Container Corp., a manufacturer of EPS products, shows there are facilities across the country where you can take your EPS waste. A searchable directory shows drop-off facilities as well as the handful of curbside programs that do accept it, including Greenwich, CT. and Bloomington, IN, as well as many cities and towns in Canada. According to an industry report, more than 125 million pounds of EPS was recycled in 2013. Like most recyclables, you should rinse and dry your EPS waste before recycling it, if you are in an area that accepts it.
It’s important to recycle where you can; EPS plastic that finds its way into the environment can be harmful to wildlife, and it never truly breaks down, just crumbles into smaller pieces. Recycled expanded polystyrene is turned into a range of products, from picture frames to office materials to new packing materials.
Another option is to reuse or repurpose the Styrofoam you accumulate. Cleaned foam trays can be used to line boxes as a cushion for packing materials, or as a surface for craft projects. You can layer pieces of foam trays between stacked pans to prevent scratches, or between porcelain plates or bowls so they don’t break. Chunks of Styrofoam or packing peanuts are also handy to line the bottom of a planter, to improve drainage.
Even if you reuse or recycle your Styrofoam, it’s a good idea to minimize your use of it in the first place. Bring your own travel coffee mug instead of using a Styrofoam to-go cup. Patronize take-out restaurants that use eco-friendly take-out containers. And, if possible, try to buy meat from a butcher who wraps your purchase to order in paper, rather than pre-packing it on the foam trays.
With these tips, you can do your part to minimize the impact of EPS on the environment.