Yes, polystyrene can be recycled, but this is not easy. A contributing factor to its difficulty in recycling is that it biodegrades slowly and exhibits considerable resistance to photolysis, which is the breakdown of materials caused by the action of sunlight.
Due to this, it may take up to 500 years for it to disintegrate organically.
Therefore, you may attempt to recycle it by donating it to merchants or carriers who take packing peanuts for shipping purposes.
In addition, since it is a number 6 plastic, Polystyrene is hard to recycle since it needs specific machinery to be broken down properly.
If your municipality has a curbside recycling program equipped with this specific machinery, you may just place your Polystyrene in the recycling container. Regrettably, not all municipal governments have such programs.
Additionally, you may take it to a recycling facility. Keep in mind that they will not take anything that has been contaminated with food or drink, since this would render the item useless for recycling.
Several recycling facilities will not take it at all (even though it is uncontaminated) as it is too bulky, making it inefficient for them to process.
The best way to recycle polystyrene
Since polystyrene products take so long to degrade naturally, the best way to recycle them is to reuse them. Certain merchants and transportation companies accept discarded styrofoam for packing shipment goods.
The best course of action is to drastically decrease your reliance on styrofoam.
When ordering takeaway, try to remember your reusable container or pick places that have made the transition to cardboard takeout containers. When delivering goods, the best course of action is to look for environmentally friendly packing options.
Styrofoam’s Environmental Impacts
However, Polystyrene is not an environmentally acceptable packing material due to its resistance to photolysis. Polystyrene is a known carcinogen, according to research, making it a significant source of contamination of the environment. Polystyrene is often covered with fire-resistant compounds, which leak into our water supply when exposed to extreme heat or sunshine.
Once discharged into the water, the chemicals and poisons produced by polystyrene materials may also be harmful to aquatic life. Waterborne contaminants that make their way into the environment where fish and marine life dwell are eaten by people as seafood.
The shipping sector contributes to the worldwide trash problem by using polystyrene goods for packing. The only way to mitigate the harm already done is to drastically alter the materials utilized in the industry.
Packaging Alternatives to Styrofoam
The most effective method to preserve the environment is to replace styrofoam with more environmentally friendly alternatives. Takeout containers and cups are available in PLA-lined paper, metal, or poly-coated paper. For shipping and packing, businesses may use coarse vermiculite as a more ecologically friendly alternative.
Vermiculite is a mineral that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. A naturally present material that expands when heated is known as a feldspar mineral. Vermiculite, when expanded, does have some of the characteristics of polystyrene, including shock absorption as well as water resistance, making it the ideal option for shipping packing materials.
Despite its low density, this Vermiculite is already utilized in the transportation sector since its low weight reduces shipping costs while providing impact absorption for your goods. Additionally, it is non-abrasive, guaranteeing that delicate goods remain scratch-free throughout transportation, even tight packing.
Polystyrene recycling: how does it work?
While this is a practical feature, it emphasizes the need to properly dispose of old polystyrene. As previously said, yes, polystyrene is recyclable. However, the procedure is not simple, and most countries currently lack the infrastructure necessary to carry it out on a big – or even small – scale.
The majority of people are acquainted with expanded polystyrene (EPS), which is often used in takeout food containers and as protective packaging for white goods. Consider creative methods to use old or discarded polystyrene, such as cushioning your shipments. Any approach that keeps it out of landfills, where it is unlikely to degrade, benefits the environment.
To begin, collect your used but clean, white, and unmarked Styrofoam and take it to a recycling center that accepts polystyrene. You may have to pay per bag depending on their charges.
The polystyrene will then be fed into the machine for recycling. The condensed Styrofoam may subsequently be used to create insulation sheets, building materials, and ceiling molding, among other things.
Additionally, they may be used as surfboards, cameras, jewelry boxes, coat hangers, public seats, pots, toys, or photo frames. The options are almost limitless.
What Is Styrofoam Made From?
Styrofoam is a registered trademark for polystyrene. It was first used in 1941. It is composed of styrene which is a petroleum-based chemical. This styrene expands when under pressure, the process is used to create closed-cell Styrofoam and is called extrusion.
Polystyrene is a clear thermoplastic material that is classed as a number 6 plastic. You’ll note that all plastics are labeled with a number that specifies how they’ll be discarded. Whereas plastics numbered 1 and 2, such as PET water bottles, are easily recyclable, plastics numbered 4 to 7 are not included in universal recycling schemes.
Styrofoam is most frequently used in consumer goods packaging. Due to a lack of recycling infrastructure, it is often disposed of in landfills, in which it takes hundreds of years to degrade.
Polystyrene cannot be recycled curbside. Styrofoam products include take-out coffee cups, take-out meal containers, meat trays, and certain household appliances packaging.
Regrettably, owing to its propensity for bursting into a shower of small plastic bits of evil, it is incompatible with recycling equipment. It is critical to remember that placing Styrofoam in the recycling bin can cause contamination of the entire recycling container, therefore it is best to put all Styrofoam in the common trash (Landfill) bin.
Yes, polystyrene can be recycled. However, it cannot be recycled via standard curbside collection. This is partly due to a lack of necessary infrastructure. Designing polystyrene compacting equipment is both costly and logistically difficult.
Additionally, there is the issue of collecting sufficient amounts. Several municipal governments across the nation collect polystyrene packing, but it is unlikely to be recycled. Because Styrofoam takes over 500 years to degrade, it is critical that we do our part to decrease our reliance on or rejection of Styrofoam goods in order to help avoid future contamination of our environment.