Recycling Mystery: Styrofoam

It’s the eternal question: Can I recycle styrofoam?

What is styrofoam?

It’s everywhere: It holds your food, secures items in packages, provides insulation in homes and it’s even in your bike helmet. It’s also known as plastic #6, which you’ve seen used in plastic cups and CD and DVD cases.

Facts about Styrofoam

Only about five percent of a foam package (ie. Styrofoam) is polystyrene. The rest is air.

Styrofoam has many benefits, including insulating quality that helps keep food warm. It is also of light weight, has high durability and strength, making it an excellent packaging material.

Because it’s so lightweight, Styrofoam takes up 0.01 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream by weight, but as you may have guessed, its volume is a greater problem than its weight. It takes up space in landfills and doesn’t biodegrade. This situation adds on to the problem of disposing styrofoam.

The process of recycling Styrofoam

The process of recycling Styrofoam involves feeding the collected Styrofoam through conveyor belts into a shredding machine.

The shredded Styrofoam is then transferred to a plastic extruder where the foam is exposed to heat and pressure to melt the Styrofoam. Subsequently, the melted Styrofoam passes out through a small outlet at the end of the extruder and solidifies into a continuous form.

This form of Styrofoam can then be easily transported to the required factories for remolding (again using heat and pressure) into its new Styrofoam products.


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