Polystyrene, commonly referred to as Styrofoam, is a prevalent, petroleum-based material which takes quite a long time to break down naturally. It can be identified by the recycling number 6 on the bottom of a package. Most curbside recycling programs will not take it, and when it is recycled, it’s made into more single-use packaging products, which are often then disposed of. To keep it out of the waste stream, keep it around for your packaging purposes, or add it to the bottom of planters to keep water from trickling out, or bring it to a craft store or an art class. They might be able to use it in crafty projects.
Styrofoam, or expanded polystyrene, or plastic #6, is indeed recyclable. However, recycling it is a bit more complicated than paper or other plastics. First of all, it depends on the polystyrene itself. Contaminents from food or medical waste can cause problems with the recycling process. Second, because most communities don’t accept curbside polystyrene recycling, other methods will have to be used. For instance, there are some places where you can simply drop off your polystyrene. Mail-back programs also exists.
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