The Styrofoam Dilemma

Polystyrene foam is what we typically call Styrofoam from its Dow Chemical Company brand name. Styrofoam is made from plastic and air. While plastic and air are both recyclable, together in this form, Styrofoam is not. Portland’s Curbside Recycling Program makes no mention of Styrofoam. It does not include Styrofoam as something that is recycled nor does it mention Styrofoam as something to be excluded. Instead, its mention is simply omitted.

To discard, Styrofoam is garbage, pure and simple. For us, that means bagging it and sending it on its merry way down the trash chute. So then why is so much Styrofoam seen in our recycle area? Those packing “peanuts” are often seen spilled into the recycle containers in various quantities with some scattered on the surrounding concrete floor. Blocks of styrene are often protruding from overstuffed containers, while still larger sheets are frequently seen standing nearby against a wall, some clinging to their original cardboard homes.

Although Styrofoam breaks apart easily and is associated with Styrofoam dust that clings to everything and is a menace to rid, it does not break down.

A memo was posted around the building “reminding” everyone that Styrofoam must not go into the recycle area. Once again, there is no discussion about what to do with it otherwise.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Reuse for mailing.
  2. Use shredded Styrofoam “dust” as a perlite substitute mixed with soil for aeration of plant roots.
  3. Dissolve. Styrofoam is easily dissolved in acetone. A small cup of acetone is all that is needed to quickly and easily dissolve a roomful of Styrofoam. Watch this fascinating video. Note: the acetone must then be brought to a special collection site for hazardous materials.
  4. Create hat racks and wig stands.
  5. Insulation. Build a doghouse or birdhouse and insulate the walls with Styrofoam.
  6. Crafts: Picture frames, wreaths, cornices, flowers. The list goes on.
  7. Freecycle. Styrofoam is in demand for any or all of the above. Offer it to a Freecycle organization and the Styrofoam will be picked up at your convenience and taken away.
  8. Cut up and bag all Styrofoam and discard as household trash.

Handy tools to have on hand:

Now we know.


2 responses to “The Styrofoam Dilemma

  1. LOL.

    I really want a big project of buying acetone, melting down my styrofoam, and then having to figure out how to specially discard it. Maybe I’ll just clean my silver in the bathtub with aluminum foil while I’m at it.

    Styrofoam cutting tool. LOL forever.

    It would be great if they stopped using Styrofoam to mail things and possibly for cups, too, since I guess you are not supposed to ingest the stuff. There are some great alternatives for mailing stuff. Of course, the alternative probably ends up in the landfill just as often as the styrofoam.

    Interesting post.

    • Garbage got very complicated, and all the rules (so many rules) vary according to where you live. Where we last lived, there was no recycling program for newspaper! I don’t think many people understand the rules, or even try to.

      Styrofoam is my least favorite material. Those little pieces that cling to everything drive me crazy. Some of the crafts ideas I came across were interesting though.

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