Styrofoam Recycling

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Styrofoam Recycling Center

A Stress-Free Solution to Get Your Styrofoam Recycled

At DTG Recycle, we utilize advanced sorting technologies to recognize and efficiently sort materials. DTG Recycle has Styrofoam Recycling Centers all over Washington State. You can drop off your used Styrofoam at our locations. Contact us for a price quote for Styrofoam recycling.

From January 2023 through June 2023, DTG Recycle has recycled over 188 Tons of Styrofoam. At DTG Recycle, we provide reliable Styrofoam recycling services that help conserve space in landfills and reduce hazardous materials in our environment.

With the rise of plastic pollution and efforts to lessen plastic debris, it is important for you to know whether or not Styrofoam or EPS is recyclable or not. Let’s find out how to safely get rid of your Styrofoam products, its recycling process, and what methods are used to recycle them.

Can Styrofoam be Recycled?

Recycling polystyrene foam is possible, but it is not straightforward and depends on various factors, including the type of polystyrene used. It is crucial to ensure that the Styrofoam is made of EPS, as other forms of polystyrene are not accepted at recycling facilities. EPS runs under #6 plastic, which means it can be recycled, but it needs to go to a special recycling facility.

Unfortunately, there are many ways in which recycling old foam packaging can be challenging. It could be due to the incorrect grade of polystyrene or the use of a different variety of expanded polystyrene, such as the Styrofoam containers used for takeout or egg cartons. Recycling colored Styrofoam is also problematic, as the dye contaminates the recycling process, rendering it unsuitable for recycling.

Even if the Styrofoam meets the necessary requirements, some community recycling centers may not accept expanded polystyrene foam (EPF), which is the end product. Once expanded, EPF cannot be returned to its natural form, making recycling even more challenging.

Finally, the most significant challenge is the difficulty and cost of recycling Styrofoam, leading many recycling companies to operate at a loss. As a result, many processing plants are hesitant to accept it, making the future of Styrofoam recycling uncertain. Hopefully, innovative solutions will emerge to recycle Styrofoam more effectively.

How to Prepare Styrofoam for Recycling?

To ensure that your recyclable Styrofoam is accepted by your local recycling facilities, it is important to prepare it properly before taking it there. The first step is to ensure that it is clean, which can be challenging due to the porous nature of polystyrene. This means removing any food particles or stains that may be stuck to the foam.

In addition to cleaning the Styrofoam, it is also important to remove any other materials such as sellotape, cardboard, and labels, as these can make the recycling process more difficult.

Preparing and storing your polystyrene correctly will help to support the recycling program, as polystyrene recycling can be a challenging process. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your Styrofoam is properly prepared for recycling and can be successfully reused in new products.

How to Dispose of Styrofoam for Recycling?

The proper way to dispose of Styrofoam for recycling is to find a recycling center or drop-off location that accepts it. It’s important to make sure the Styrofoam is clean and free of any tape, labels, or other debris before recycling. Some recycling centers may also require the Styrofoam to be broken down or compacted into smaller pieces. Check with your local recycling center to see if they accept Styrofoam and what the requirements are for drop-off or pickup. It’s important to note that transporting large quantities of Styrofoam can be challenging and may require special arrangements.

How to Recycle Styrofoam?

Recycling Styrofoam is important to reduce environmental pollution, but it can be a bit challenging because it is not accepted in curbside recycling programs. However, there are still ways to recycle Styrofoam, and here is a step-by-step guide on how it is done.

1. Collecting Used Styrofoam

The first step in recycling Styrofoam is to collect the used material. This can be done by individuals, businesses, or through municipal recycling programs.

Styrofoam will still be marked with the recycling symbol even though you typically cannot put it in your recycling bin. A number that identifies the kind of plastic the recycling symbol is composed of can be found inside the symbol. To find out what kinds of plastic your local recycling business accepts, inquire with them. The majority of recycling services require:

  • Plastic #1: Polyethylene terephthalate is the plastic used in drink bottles, food containers, and detergent containers.
  • Plastic #2: High-density polyethylene makes up containers like milk jugs, water jugs, and shampoo bottles.
  • Plastic #5: Polypropylene is found in items like yogurt and pudding cups. Not every recycling location will accept plastic #5.

2. Cleaning and Shredding

Styrofoam is separated from other materials like paper, plastic, or food scraps. This is important as contamination can make recycling difficult. Then, any stickers or labels that may be present on the Styrofoam are removed. It is then inspected for any food residue or dirt. Styrofoam needs to be cleaned before shredding if it is dirty. It is wiped down with a damp cloth or washed in warm, soapy water. It is then dried before shredding. A specialized Styrofoam shredder is used to shred the Styrofoam into small pieces. Lastly, the shredded Styrofoam is collected in a plastic bag or container. The shredded Styrofoam or beads can now be melted down and transformed into pellets for reuse.

3. Melting and Transforming Paste into Pellets

The beads are mixed with a special solvent, usually a hydrocarbon, to turn them into a thick paste. The solvent used is usually a hydrocarbon mixture that dissolves the EPS foam. The paste is then heated in a reactor vessel to a temperature of around 180-220°C (356-428°F), causing it to melt. This process is carried out under pressure to prevent the solvent from boiling and evaporating, which can cause the foam to break down. Once the paste has melted, it is extruded into long strands using an extrusion machine. These strands are then cooled and cut into small, cylindrical pellets. The pellets are then dried to remove any residual moisture and are packaged for distribution to manufacturers who can use them in various applications.

4. Transporting the Pellets to Manufacturers

The final step is to transport the Styrofoam pellets to manufacturers who can use them to create new products. These pellets can be used to create a variety of items such as picture frames, crown molding, and even surfboards.

What Methods are Used to Recycle Styrofoam?

  • Mechanical Recycling – The first step in mechanical recycling is collecting and sorting the Styrofoam. The collected material is then compressed into blocks to reduce its size and make transportation easier. The blocks are then shredded into small pieces and heated until they become liquid. This process is called melting or densification. The melted Styrofoam is then put through an extruder which forces the liquid material through a small opening to create pellets or beads. These pellets can then be used to manufacture new products such as picture frames, crown molding, and more.
  • Chemical Recycling – In chemical recycling, the Styrofoam is broken down into its individual chemical components through a process called depolymerization. In the first step, the Styrofoam is shredded into small pieces and then heated in a reactor vessel along with a solvent. This process breaks down the polystyrene into its monomer form, which can be used to create new polystyrene products or other chemicals. The remaining solvent can be recovered and reused, making chemical recycling a closed-loop process.

Both mechanical and chemical recycling methods have their own advantages and limitations. Mechanical recycling is generally more cost-effective and widely available, while chemical recycling requires more specialized equipment and processes.

Why Recycle Styrofoam?

  • Reduces the amount of debris in landfills and the environment
  • Conserves natural resources and energy
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Helps to create new products and materials
  • Supports the development of a circular economy
  • Helps to reduce the use of virgin materials

Statistics on Styrofoam Recycling

5,000 tons of Styrofoam were Recycled

In the United States, less than 5,000 tons of the 80,000 tons of Styrofoam containers that were produced in 2018 were recycled. Moreover, 140 thousand tons of polystyrene bags, sacks, and wraps were produced and only 20 thousand tons of polystyrene were recycled which only makes about 3.6% of the polystyrene in containers and packaging. 1

DTG Recycle recycled over 188 Tons of Styrofoam between Jan and June 2023

188 Tons of Styrofoam are enough Styrofoam equivalent to provide electricity to every DTG tractor drivers home for a year.

Every ton of Styrofoam you recycle, you can prevent the following...

About 80% of Styrofoam end up in landfills while the remaining 20% end up in waterways, making it an active contributor occupying more space than other debris with approximately 1369 tons buried in US landfills every day. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the manufacture of polystyrene results in the release of 57 chemical byproducts, many of which pose a substantial risk to human health. 3

Need a Quote? Contact Us for Styrofoam Recycling Prices

Get a quote for your Styrofoam recycling needs, contact us today at (425) 549-4905. Our team at DTG Recycle is happy to cater to all of your Styrofoam recycling requirements. We are committed to providing our Styrofoam disposal customers with affordable and personalized recycling solutions that meet their unique requirements.

Styrofoam Recycling and Disposal Locations

DTG Recycle has Styrofoam Recycling Centers near you.

Our Locations:

FAQs for Styrofoam Recycling Service

Where can I recycle Styrofoam?

Styrofoam can be recycled at most recycling centers, as well as at curbside pickup programs in many areas. Check with your local recycling program for specific guidelines on how to recycle Styrofoam in your area.

Can I make money by recycling Styrofoam?

It is possible to make money by recycling styrofoam, but the opportunities to do so may be limited. Styrofoam is a lightweight and bulky material that takes up a lot of space, so it can be expensive to transport and process. Additionally, not all recycling centers accept styrofoam, and those that do may only accept certain types or quantities.

Some companies may offer styrofoam recycling services and pay for large volumes of clean, uncontaminated styrofoam. These companies may require that the styrofoam be sorted, compressed, or bundled in a specific way before they will accept it.

How many times can Styrofoam be recycled?

Styrofoam can technically be recycled multiple times, but the process is not very efficient or cost-effective. When styrofoam is recycled, it is typically shredded or melted down into small pellets or beads, which can then be used to make new styrofoam products. However, the quality of the recycled styrofoam is usually lower than that of new styrofoam, and it may not be suitable for certain applications.

Additionally, many recycling programs do not accept styrofoam, or they only accept certain types or quantities. Even if styrofoam is accepted for recycling, the process can be expensive and energy-intensive, which can make it less environmentally friendly than simply reducing the amount of styrofoam that is produced and used.

Is Styrofoam worse than plastic?

Styrofoam and plastic share many similarities, including their inability to biodegrade and their harmful effects on the environment. The toxic chemicals in both materials can contaminate food and water, and their incineration releases harmful toxins like sulfur dioxide and dioxins. To dispose of them correctly is crucial.

Between the two, Styrofoam is considered worse for two main reasons. Firstly, its bulkiness takes up a significant amount of space in already overburdened landfills. Since it doesn't degrade, it could remain there forever. Secondly, Styrofoam is difficult to recycle, and many recycling companies incur losses processing it. Despite the availability of drop-off locations, there is no guarantee of recycling Styrofoam indefinitely.

What are the effects of Styrofoam on people's health?

Styrofoam can have harmful effects on human health, especially if it is not disposed of properly or if it is used in food packaging. Styrofoam contains toxic chemicals such as styrene and benzene, which can leach into food and drinks that come into contact with it, particularly when the Styrofoam is heated or used with hot liquids. Styrene is a possible human carcinogen and has been linked to respiratory and neurological effects. Benzene is a known carcinogen that can cause leukemia and other cancers. Inhaling styrene vapors can also cause respiratory problems, dizziness, and headaches. In addition, Styrofoam can release harmful chemicals into the air when burned, which can cause further health problems for humans.

Can packing Styrofoam be recycled?

Packing Styrofoam can sometimes be recycled, but it depends on the type of Styrofoam and the recycling facilities in your area.

Clean foam blocks and trays used for packing electronics, appliances, and other products are often recyclable. However, they must be clean, without any tape, labels, or other materials attached to them.

Packing peanuts, on the other hand, are not usually accepted for recycling because they are difficult to recycle and often end up as litter. However, some specialized recycling programs do exist for packing peanuts, so it's worth checking with your local recycling facility to see if they accept them.

It's important to note that not all recycling facilities accept Styrofoam, and even if they do, the Styrofoam may need to be separated from other types of recyclables. Be sure to check with your local recycling facility for their specific guidelines and requirements for Styrofoam recycling.

Which Styrofoam products are not recyclable?

  • Styrofoam food packaging such as takeout containers, cups, and plates.
  • Styrofoam food containers that are coated with a layer of wax or plastic to make them more durable and resistant to liquids.
  • Packing peanuts used as cushioning material in shipping boxes.
  • Styrofoam products that are contaminated with food residue or other materials that are difficult to remove.
  • Styrofoam products that have been used for industrial or construction purposes, such as insulation or protective packaging, may not be recyclable depending on their composition and intended use.

It's important to note that not all recycling programs accept Styrofoam, so it's essential to check with your local recycling facility to determine which types of Styrofoam they accept.

Are there detrimental effects of Styrofoam to the environment?

Styrofoam has severe negative impacts on the environment. In addition to probable health risks, this lightweight material can break into tiny pieces and become pollution in the environment. Wind-blown Styrofoam litter can pollute land and water, causing significant harm to wildlife as they ingest it, mistaking it for food.

Initially, Styrofoam products were considered safe for the environment, but it has since been discovered that over time, they release a gaseous methane derivative called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer, which is a significant contributor to climate change according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The degradation of EPS or Styrofoam products accounts for almost 3% of CFCs in the atmosphere. 3

The main problem with Styrofoam is its disposal. Polystyrene is designed to be resistant to the elements, meaning that when it ends up in a landfill, it will not break down. This makes it a major contributor to debris accumulation. Although the exact lifespan of these products is unknown, scientists speculate that it will take at least 500 years for polystyrene to break down, if it ever does at all. This means that Styrofoam will continue to take up space in landfills, perpetuating the harm to the environment.

What types of products can be made from recycled Styrofoam?

  • Picture frames and moldings
  • Crown moldings
  • Interior and exterior decorative trim
  • Insulation boards
  • Packaging materials
  • Foam coolers and ice chests
  • Planters and garden containers
  • Synthetic lumber for decks and outdoor furniture
  • Furniture such as chairs, tables, and stools
  • Wall panels for insulation and soundproofing
  • Surfboards
  • Bicycle helmets
  • Flower pots
  • Park benches
  • Hangers
  • Toys
  • Garden nursery trays
  • Shoe soles

References
1 Frequent Questions regarding EPA’s Facts and Figures about Materials, and Recycling | US EPA. Retrieved June 15, 2023, from https://www.epa.gov/

2 31 Styrofoam Facts That You Should Know About (2022 Edition) | Better Goods. Retrieved June 15, 2023, from https://bettergoods.org/styrofoam-facts/

3 All You Need To Know About Styrofoam Recycling | Recycle Coach. Retrieved June 15, 2023, from https://recyclecoach.com/blog/all-you-need-to-know-about-styrofoam-recycling/