Styrofoam is the Dow Chemical Company's trademarked name for extruded polystyrene foam. Many packaged items come encased in it, particularly fragile electronic items such as TV sets, DVD players, computers and gaming consoles. However, polystyrene foam is not biodegradable, so it's important to find a ecologically sound way of disposing of it. Most recycling companies will not take styrofoam because its volume-to-weight ratio makes it uneconomic to be transported for recycling.
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Check whether there is a styrofoam recycling point or drop-off centre in your area. Check your county's website or look for a business that offers the service, such as Dart (see Resources). Make sure the styrofoam is clean before taking it to be recycled.
Donate your styrofoam to a local elementary school or craft centre. Many arts and crafts can be performed with styrofoam, and it is particularly popular with young children.
Grind up your styrofoam using a wheel sander, which can be bought or rented from most large hardware stores, and mix it with potting soil, where it will work as an aerator, and help with water drainage. This can be used with any potted plant.
Tips and warnings
- Businesses that use a lot of styrofoam may consider purchasing a Styromelt machine, which melts styrofoam into a solid block, making the volume of foam much smaller and forming a dense block of material that has shed 95 per cent of its bulk. These blocks can be sold to recycling companies that can turn the blocks into fuel (see Resources).
- Styrofoam can be quite easily dissolved with d-Limonene or pure orange rind oil for ease of disposal. However, this process releases toxic substances such as ethylene into the air, so it is not a safe solution for home disposal.
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