Holiday shoppers now have an easy way to figure out where to recycle the foam packaging that protects their gifts and keeps their hot cocoa warm.
A new interactive website allows Americans and Canadians to search for local recycling programs that collect protective foam packaging and foam food packaging. The site also identifies foam packaging “mail back” programs for areas where local recycling does not exist.
PSFoamRecycling.org allows users to enter a zip code or search an interactive map to find recycling programs. The site differentiates between programs that accept protective foam packaging (typically used for transporting electronics and other high-end products), programs that collect foam food packaging (such as coffee cups, clamshell containers, egg cartons, and meat trays), and programs that collect both types of packaging. It also identifies whether the foam packaging is collected at curbside or drop-off programs.
The foam packaging collected in these programs is made from polystyrene plastic, typically marked with the number six or “PS” in chasing arrows. It’s often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam, which is a Dow trademark for an insulation product.
Access to curbside and drop-off recycling programs for foam polystyrene packaging is growing across the U.S. and Canada. However, it is not yet widespread, so the site provides links to organizations that allow people to ship their foam polystyrene for recycling. These programs help meet the growing demand for recycled polystyrene, as more and more companies seek out recycled plastics to use in manufacturing.
“Nobody wants a loved one to open a gift and find that it’s broken, which is why so many manufacturers use protective polystyrene foam packaging,” says Keith Christman, managing director of plastics markets for the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division. “Foam packaging uses very little material—it’s typically more than 95 percent air—and does a great job, whether protecting TVs or serving hot coffee without scalding our hands. With growing access to recycling, it’s becoming easier to find ways to keep this valuable material out of landfills.”
PSFoamRecycling.org will be regularly updated as recycling programs grow and change, so it can be used beyond the holiday season. The site is overseen by Moore Recycling Associates, which provides consulting services for plastics recycling. The site is sponsored by the Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group, part of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division. Organizations that collect recycling information–the Canadian Plastic Industry Association, the EPS Industry Alliance, and the Foodservice Packaging Institute–contributed to the site.