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Oct 20

Dear Recyclinda: Why doesn't the SWA recycle plastic foam?

Posted on October 20, 2017 at 4:20 PM by Becky Robinson


Dear Recyclinda,

Different grocery stores will accept foam containers for recycling. So why won't the SWA take them in the blue or yellow recycling bin?

Foaming in Hypoluxo

You might be surprised to learn that this is a weighty issue, my dear Foamy.

Let me lay some numbers on you: When you hold a plastic foam (sometimes called Styrofoam™) container, only about up to 5 percent of that egg carton is plastic. The rest is air.

Because of its airy nature, collecting and transporting plastic foam to a recycling facility is generally not economical for a program like the SWA's. First, the foam would have to be hand-sorted from the other recyclables that go in your recycling bin. Then, the SWA would need to stockpile a huge volume of the stuff and expend funds for equipment to densify the plastic foam and squeeze out all of that air. The SWA would then need to find recyclers willing to buy the densified foam.

That is why plastic foam containers like take-out boxes and egg cartons do NOT go in Palm Beach County's blue or yellow recycling bin.

It's not because this material is not recyclable, it's just that the best method of recycling plastic foam is to source-separate it, meaning that thoughtful residents like yourself can separate it from all other wastes at their home and deliver them to a program that only handles that material. Like, for example, those grocery store drop-offs you mentioned.

So if foam is where your heart is, just place it in the special container at your grocery store.


Alexandro Rezakhani
November 1, 2017 at 8:33 PM
Thank you for this explanation on why you choose not to recycle plastic foam containers. You mention to drop-off at grocery stores for egg cartons, but where can I drop off foam packaging with resin identification code #6 stamped on the material and is often to ship electronics in South Florida? Am I limited to only mailing these via freight onto a pallet?
Becky Robinson
August 14, 2018 at 10:49 AM
Hi Alexandro! Unfortunately, I am chagrined to say that I don't know of any other option.

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