How to Dispose of Styrofoam

Styrofoam is everywhere in our modern, convenience-obsessed society. From packaging and shipping containers to fast food boxes and beverage cups, it has become an ubiquitous part of our lives. It’s convenient and affordable because it’s lightweight and made from expanded polystyrene foam, which is essentially a compound of plastic and air. But when it’s time to dispose of styrofoam, it can come with a different kind of cost—to the environment. In this post, we’ll discuss how to dispose of styrofoam properly and safely.

Styrofoam: Environmental Fast Facts

Many types of styrofoam aren’t recyclable. Since this material is made from a mixture of petroleum and chemicals, throwing it in the trash has risks. Although most trash haulers accept it, it can be detrimental to our ecosystems when it breaks down.

  • A 1986 EPA report rated the manufacturing process used to make polystyrene as one the world’s largest sources of hazardous waste.
  • Over 2.5 million tons of polystyrene are disposed of into landfills each year. Less than one percent of that ends up being recycled.
  • It contains benzene and styrene, which are known carcinogens to humans.
  • It takes around 500 years for plastic foam to fully break down. That means those foam peanuts in your package that got delivered the other day will be around until 2520.

With these environmental issues in mind, here are a few ways to properly dispose of styrofoam and hopefully prevent it from ending up in a landfill.

Sell your Styrofoam

Depending on the type, shape, size and condition of your styrofoam, you may be able to sell it. Larger pieces and quantities of plastic foam may have value to companies that repurpose it. In this way, you can keep your styrofoam out of a landfill while making a profit for yourself. It’s a win-win!

At repurposedMATERIALS, we buy and sell used and unused materials. We may be interested in purchasing your styrofoam from you. Contact us to find out more.

Recycle Your Styrofoam

Some curbside recycling companies will take styrofoam. But since only certain types of styrofoam are recyclable, check with your service to see which kinds, if any, they will take away. Start by looking for the triangular recycling symbol on your styrofoam materials. If there isn’t one, it’s probably not recyclable. You may also be able to locate a polystyrene foam drop-off center that specializes in recycling or safe disposal in your area. Call your county and ask for licensed styrofoam recycling centers nearby.

Hazardous Waste Collection Facilities

Most cities, towns and municipalities offer hazardous waste drop-off facilities where unsafe materials and chemicals can be disposed of safely. Some of these facilities may accept styrofoam, either free of charge— or for a small fee.

Donate it to a School

Many schools will accept clean styrofoam and reuse it for a variety of student projects. It can be used for art and craft projects, theater props, and even dioramas for class projects. This is a great option, because it will get a second life and extend its usefulness.

Repurpose your Styrofoam

Speaking of second lives, repurposing is a great way to keep plastic foam out of landfills. With a little creativity and ingenuity—or a just simple online search for DIY projects, you can come up with dozens of clever uses for styrofoam. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Shipping. Saving styrofoam hunks and packing peanuts can be great for when you need to ship packages or wrap fragile gifts. People who sell items on eBay know this trick well!
  • Planter Pots. Fill the bottom of heavier planting pots with styrofoam to use less soil and make the planter easier to lift and move. This can also improve the drainage, which is great for the plant.
  • Insulation. Styrofoam is a great insulator. You can use it to insulate pet houses, fishing shacks, and other outdoor buildings. (Note: since styrofoam is a flammable fire hazard, make sure to never use it as insulation inside a home.)
  • Screw Tightening. Have a loose screw that no longer fits tightly in its hole? Run it through a piece of styrofoam. The foam will fill up the extra space and tighten it up.

More at repurposedMATERIALS

We’re glad that you care enough to read up on how to dispose of styrofoam safely. Doing so will help protect the environment and reduce the pollution and contamination of our land and bodies of water.

For more smart ways to dispose of unwanted items without sending them to landfills, check out repurposedMATERIALS. Depending on what you have, we may be willing to buy it from you. While you’re at it, explore our vast inventory of used and unused materials at repurposedMATERIALS today. You may just find a few things that are ideal for your next project at unbeatable prices!

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