Top Troublemakers: Plastic Foam

eps clamshell takeout containers and eps ice chest,

Have you ever thrown egg cartons, meat trays or takeout containers made of white foam into the recycling bin? Seems like the right thing to do considering they have the triangular recycling symbol on the bottom, right?

Unfortunately, expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam – often mistakenly referred to as “Styrofoam,” a trademarked name of a unique type of polystyrene – is not accepted in your curbside recycling. Here is why.

There are two main problems with recycling EPS:

  1. Contamination
    EPS is often contaminated with food debris or liquid and is difficult to sanitize. Food contaminants can cause entire loads of recyclables to be rejected and sent to the landfill instead.
  2. Density
    Expanded polystyrene is approximately 5 percent plastic and 95 percent air. This means it is extremely lightweight and prone to flying away when collected from bins without a garbage bag. It also takes up a lot of room per unit of weight and is not cost-effective to transport.

Alternative Recycling Programs for EPS:

Reduce EPS:

  • Use your own reusable mugs or food containers and be conscious of vendors and restaurants that use expanded polystyrene foam.
  • Opt for wadded paper, shredded paper or newspaper instead of “packing peanuts” to protect fragile packages.

Reuse EPS: