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How to recycle styrofoam packaging

Updated February 21, 2017

Polystyrene, or expanded polystyrene, is better known by its brand name, styrofoam. Polystyrene, though marked with a triangular recycling symbol and the plastic code "6," can't be dumped in your kerbside recycling bin, or in general, taken to your municipal drop-off centre. With a little determination, you can give new life to styrofoam packing peanuts, electronics packagings and even more challenging materials like egg cartons and food containers. Recycled polystyrene is used to make more of the packaging materials, as well as things like toys and office products, according to manufacturer and recycler Dart Container.

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  1. Reuse packing peanuts yourself or take them to local packing and shipping stores for reuse. The Plastic Loose Fill Council operates a 24-hour hotline to direct consumers nationwide to businesses that reuse polystyrene peanuts. The organisation's website also offers a list of drop-off sites. The council's Peanut Hotline is 800-828-2214.

  2. Recycle moulded polystyrene packaging--the rigid blocky styrofoam used to protect electronics and other delicate products--by sending it to the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers' Mail-Back Recycling Program. Check that the polystrene packaging is marked with a recycling symbol and the number six. Remove any paper labels, plastic film or glued-on cardboard from the polystyrene.

  3. Break the polystyrene packaging into smaller pieces if desired. Pack the polystyrene into boxes or sturdy plastic sacks to mail to recyclers. The Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers' Mail-Back Recycling Program accepts clean expanded polystyrene at any of their 47 participating locations across the country, which are listed at epspackaging.org/images/stories/National_Mail_Back_Locations.pdf.

  4. Recycle material such as styrofoam cups and pressed polystyrene egg cartons, meat trays and other foam food containers at recycling centres operated by Dart Container in 15 states, Canada and Mexico.

  5. Empty and rinse the styrofoam cups, egg cartons, meat trays and other foam food containers. Make sure they are free of food remnants.

  6. Pack the cups and containers into transparent plastic bags and write your name or organisation and phone number on the front. Take it--or package and mail it--to one of the recycling centres found at dartcontainer.com/web/environ.nsf/pages/drop-off.html.

  7. Tip

    Reuse styrofoam yourself in craft projects and for household needs. Avoid purchasing products that use polystyrene packaging.


    Recyclers do not pay for shipping.

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Things You'll Need

  • Transparent plastic bags
  • Shipping boxes and supplies

About the Author

Patricia Hamilton Reed has written professionally since 1987. Reed was editor of the "Grand Ledge Independent" weekly newspaper and a Capitol Hill reporter for the national newsletter "Corporate & Foundation Grants Alert." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University, is an avid gardener and volunteers at her local botanical garden.

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