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Because You Asked

Can I Recycle Styrofoam?

By Recyclebank |

Foamed polystyrene feels light, but its environmental impact is heavy.

Dear Recyclebank,

We like to recycle everything possible. What can be done with "Styrofoam"?

-Charles B.

Dear Charles,

If you’re recycling as much as you can, it's likely you’ve already found that your local waste hauler doesn’t accept foamed polystyrene. Foamed polystyrene, sometimes incorrectly referred to generically by the brand name Styrofoam, is marked as plastic number 6 on items like foam cups and take-out containers.

Fun Fact: The trademarked name Styrofoam, owned by The Dow Chemical Company, actually refers to a unique kind of polystyrene, which is extruded instead of expanded. Extruded polystyrene (XPS) is designed to be used in building materials and is not found in consumer foam cups or take-out containers.

But many people still use the name to refer to expanded polystyrene (EPS). EPS has gained a notoriously bad environmental reputation because very few recycling programs accept it and it can sit in a landfill for centuries — facts that are especially problematic when Americans throw away millions of polystyrene cups away every year. Some cities, including New York City, have voted to ban polystyrene containers, and more are considering similar bans.

Check online to see if you live near one of the few facilities that do accept polystyrene for recycling. If you do, make sure your materials are clean and dry before dropping them off. If your polystyrene is in the form of packing material (like packing peanuts), you may be able to drop them off at certain shipping retail locations for reuse. You could also reuse the packing peanuts yourself next time you ship something. When it comes to polystyrene, your best bet is to avoid it in the first place!

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association
NYC Department of Sanitation
EPS Industry Alliance

What are some ways you can avoid using foamed polystyrene? Share them in the comments below.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Styrofoam recycling m. 9 months ago
    Waste is misplaced resource. Polystyrene is worth recycling. INTCO recycling help drop-off centers to dispose of the waste EPS and make good use of them as delicate renewable PS frames. Here is a our website you can get more information from it:
  • Brenda & Theo D. 1 year ago
    If your household has bean bag chairs used extra peanuts for filling. As we all sit the filling flattens and so extra peanuts give it new life.
  • London A. 1 year ago
    You didn't answer my question can I recycle styrofoam.
  • Patrick R. 1 year ago
    I often will take my own "take-out" container with me to a restaurant. TPW, plastic bag, foil, etc. Or, if I have to, I will ask for a piece of foil or their smallest size container.
  • Carol K. 1 year ago
    Be sure to use the link "drop them off at certain retail shipping loacations" in the article "Can I Recycle Styrofoam?" Think UPS, etc. and call to save yourself time.
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