Expanded polystyrene (EPS), generically called Styrofoam, which is actually a Dow Chemical Company trademark, is NOT RECYCLABLE anywhere in Northwest Indiana.
Many people believe that because it is a type of plastic, they can place it in their curbside recycling bins/totes or in our drop-off recycling containers; however, it is a major contaminant for the facilities that sort your recyclables, among its many other shortcomings.
There is no market for the material in this area and in many areas of the U.S., so few companies want it enough to buy it to make something else out of it. Placing it in your recyclables means it either ends up baled with materials being sold, causing contamination, or it’s landfilled at an additional cost to the sorting facility, a cost that gets passed on to the residents.
There are two reasons why few companies buy post-consumer polystyrene foam: density and contamination. Polystyrene foam is 95% air so it is not cost-effective to store or ship. Remember that recycling uses energy for transport and processing. There is no point in recycling if you use more energy than you save. In addition, it is often contaminated with food or drink, and it is difficult to clean because it is so porous.
The foam is lightweight, so it tends to blow around if not contained. It is not biodegradeable or sustainable, as it is made from petroleum. Its buoyancy allows it to float down waterways, eventually making it to the ocean where it gets broken down into smaller pieces and ingested by marine life.
It is best to REDUCE YOUR USE! Steer clear of products that are contained in Styrofoam, sending manufacturers a message that you don’t support its use. Styrofoam sitting in the landfill releases methane gases that have over 20 times the ozone destroying potency as CO2.
If you have some, try to reuse it or give it to someone else to reuse. Ask shipping stores if they want your packing peanuts. Some peanuts are now biodegradable, made of natural materials such as wheat or cornstarch, which can be composted or safely dissolved in running warm/hot water.
There are locations you can take EPS for recycling, but they are a bit of a drive. Use this website to find them: www.epspackaging.org
There is also a mail-back program, but it does cost for shipping.