Recycling Know No’s: Styrofoam

January 2, 2024

By Liz Antanavica, Bedford Trash & Recycling Administrator 

Styrofoam – It’s white, usually large, and makes an annoying mess when you try to crush it down. It can be found in other forms, too, such as packing peanuts, coffee cups, meat trays, and even insulation and floral foam. None of these are recyclable in the curbside recycling carts (remember, only plastic bottles, jars, jugs and tubs in the curbside carts, please).

Fortunately, many companies are moving away from using Styrofoam packing for more environmentally-friendly molded fiber packing materials, similar to a cardboard insert.

Styrofoam is actually a trademarked brand of expanded polystyrene foam, or EPS for short. It is a type of plastic, but it’s not chemically the same as a plastic water bottle or milk jug. EPS is also 98 percent air, making it incredibly lightweight. From a waste management perspective, it’s a challenging material to deal with primarily because of the large size and comparative light weight. An entire box truck full of EPS might not even weigh a full ton.

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The Bedford Department of Public Works receives lots of inquiries about how residents can responsibly dispose of Styrofoam, often from folks who really don’t want to trash their Styrofoam.

For the month of December, “Styrofoam blocks” was the #2 most search material in the Waste Wizard tool. In response, here are some suggestions:

Drop-off Recycling

  • Conigliaro Industries in Framingham accepts clean, white packaging bracing from the public for a small fee. Material must be clean and bagged. They do not accept any other types of foam such as coffee cups or meat trays. Visit their website for gate pricing and additional information.
  • Other companies offering a similar service include Save That Stuff! In Charlestown, and Gold Circuit E-Cycling in Palme.

Special Recycling Event at the DPW

  • Save clean, white packaging bracing for a special collection event. The DPW is pleased to work with Conigliaro Industries to responsibly recycle the EPS collected at these events. Events are held at the Compost & Recycling Center, in both the spring and fall, free of charge for Bedford residents. The next event will be held in May. There is hope to expand this offering to make EPS recycling available to residents more often.

Trash

  • All colored expanded foam products should be placed in the trash. At this time, there are no known recycling facilities for this material.
  • Others types of expanded foam products, such as those made from PET plastic, should also be placed in the trash.

Other Tips

  • Packing peanuts are now mostly made of a starch-based material that dissolves in water. Try running some water over any peanuts you may have to see if they are, in fact, dissolvable.
  • If you cannot find an alternative outlet, you may put this material in the trash. Residents may use either the black trash cart of an official overflow bag. Often the overflow bags may more readily accommodate the large pieces.
  • It’s worth repeating: No Styrofoam in the blue recycling carts. Thank you for removing it from your boxes before recycling the cardboard.

As always, the Waste Wizard tool is available at www.bedfordma.gov/recycling to help answer your “How do I recycle this?” questions.

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January 3, 2024 2:02 pm

Also check Earth911.com or HomeForFoam.com!! Lets all divert EPS from our landfills!!

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