Foam packaging, more commonly known as Styrofoam, is used in many kinds of packaging and miscellaneous items in our day-to-day lives. According to the Recyclepedia, Styrofoam is one of our top-searched materials, with more than 500 views on it this month alone!
We’re often asked if Styrofoam or foam packaging is accepted in our program, and if it can be recycled. In short – no. Styrofoam is not accepted in Manitoba’s residential recycling program. Here are a few reasons why foam packaging isn’t accepted.
- Not enough space
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is the full name for #6 plastic. This type of plastic is lightweight, bulky, and mostly made of air. For it to be recycled, communities would need to collect a very large amount before it can be compressed and baled. Because Manitoba has a smaller population than other provinces, it would take a longer time to collect the same amount of material. In the recycling bin, these items would take up a lot of space over materials that can be easily compressed and crushed (i.e., aluminum cans).
- No end markets
Recyclables are a commodity just like anything else. For them to be bought and sold, there needs to be a viable end market for the materials. Communities can’t collect the material if there isn’t a place for the packaging to go afterwards. Foam packaging is also not a sought-after material, as there are limits on what it can be made into.
- Not cost-effective
To receive funding from MMSM, communities need to run efficient, cost-effective recycling programs. The costs of recycling plastic #6 are very high, which makes it ineffective. Polystyrene requires special processing to be recycled, which the recycling facilities aren’t typically equipped with. Foam packaging that breaks into the smaller balls is a contaminant to other recyclables and is difficult to contain.
We understand that foam packaging may be hard to avoid as many companies use it for packaging. If possible, try to find ways to reuse it (i.e., save foam packing peanuts for stuffing material). Reducing what you use and reusing what you already have is always better than recycling.