Recycling expanded polystyrene is a great habit to get into. While some people mistakenly refer to expanded polystyrene as Styrofoam™ (a Dow  Chemical trademarked product), it is most certainly not. Styrofoam™ was introduced by its creator way back in 1941, and has become a widely used medium for everything from meat tray packaging to EPS Geofoam blocks. Styrofoam™ cups, fast food containers and building insulation has certainly impacted society, and it is certainly impacting the planet. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (in reality there are 5 in the world) is the largest collection of plastic pollution on the planet, and is about twice the size of Texas. We as protectors of the environment can do so much better. Don’t litter, stop using plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups.

Recycling your expanded polystyrene is not that difficult, as there are numerous secondary uses for it. Arts and crafts experts have defined an entire catalog of uses for EPS, and if you have no creative genes, locate a recycling center near you. For those in the Eastern Tristate area, here’s some information that could prove to be helpful.

As for tips to help keep expanded polystyrene out of our landfills and waterways, bear in mind that there are solutions beyond merely chucking your styrofoam cup or drink container into the trash.

Just remember this: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BURN IT! Burning polystyrene will emit a swath of chemical gasses into the atmosphere, mainly carbon monoxide and benzene, which have both been found to be a serious health hazard.

Instead, consider some of the following:

  • Locate a plastics recycling company near you that takes #6 plastic for disposal.
  • Try reusing that leftover Styrofoam as packing material yourself. Hey, waste not, want not. Got a broken styro cooler? Break it up and save it for your next shipping project.
  • Treat your outdoor pets with an insulated dog house. Loose styrofoam pieces can be crushed and molded into make-shift panels and applied as insulation inside spot’s home outside of your home. No pet? What about your outdoor shed, or garage?
  • Craftspeople often look for large pieces of EPS foam for art projects, stage props, all sorts of things. Model buildings, plants, bridges and all sorts of other miniature objects can make a model train set come alive with newly created props.
  • Try sending your miscellaneous polystyrene to a recycler by mail. Your environment will appreciate it.
  • Shrink it. Organic orange peel extract called Limonene can be found in a variety of consumer products, from cosmetics to cleaners. Its chemical name is citric terpene. Spraying Limonene on EPS will shrink it to a 10th of its size, making storage and recycling a breeze. Don’t discard the end result as it is still a very long process to bio-degrade (about 400 years)
  • Know a farmer or gardener? Crushed polystyrene in small pellets is often used as an additive to soils for aeration and irrigation purposes. It keeps the soil moist longer and provides a means to keep it from clumping.
  • Because it floats, excess Styrofoam can be reused as flotation buoys for boats, even artificial reefs for our aquatic friend.
  • Professional, large-scale recyclers, have melting and compacting EPS foam capability, a great way to minimize space while controlling the reuse of materials. EPS foam can be reused due to its expandable properties.

The Latest Discovery

Past September articles were published that identified the biodegradation of polystyrene and the fact that there are organisms that actually digest and dispose of it, known as mealworms.

Two papers published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in September by Wu and his colleagues at Stanford and Beihang University in Beijing found that mealworms, the larvae form of the beetle Tenebrio molitor, can eat and rapidly break down Styrofoam and other forms of polystyrene generally thought to be non-biodegradable. Though for many years we’ve known that insects, birds and other animals occasionally eat plastic, Wu’s team was able to show for the first time that in some cases, the polystyrene is not only consumed, but also is broken down into small, harmless components that can be absorbed back into the environment.

While recycling bulky, molded container material or Styrofoam packing peanuts, there are solutions out there. Here are some locations that may help you get rid of that unwarranted polystyrene.

New Jersey Recycling Locations

Perhaps the greatest way for our nation and the environment to thrive and still use plastics is to limit their uses, as so many cities have already. Numerous cities and states have banned the use of plastic bags and fast food containers. With sufficient pressure on the fast food industry, someday we might also get plastic dishware, cutlery and drinking cups and glasses banned as well, at least in public.

We take the environment seriously. At Polymolding LLC, we’re proud of our record of only providing construction grade materials. The materials we provide to shore up retaining walls, ramps, stadiums and other large projects typically don’t get chucked into the landfills when the project is completed. Our large EPS Geofoam, Geofoam insulation sheeting and other products have a commercial application and not left in the hands of the typical, fast-paced consumer.

For more information on the many uses of Geofoam, feel free to have one of our professionals provide a no cost, no obligation consultation. Having the knowledge in advance of your next large commercial endeavor can save time, energy and significant financial savings over traditional back-fill, supporting roadbed or rail bed costs.