Styrofoam is a versatile, lightweight material that can be manufactured into a variety of products. Styrofoam offers a high-performance yet economical way for a wide variety of items—from sensitive electronics to appliances to pharmaceuticals—to be safely delivered to market. Manufacturers rely on Styrofoam packaging because of its ability to prevent or minimize product damage during transit and its excellent insulation properties required for food and medical shipments.
Styrofoam is an excellent fuel for waste-to-energy. It burns cleanly and efficiently with a high energy value, resulting in an end product of carbon dioxide, water vapor and trace amounts of inert ash. This makes it a valuable feed stock for waste-to-energy incinerators.
Yet Styrofoam packaging, or any disposable packaging, will eventually become solid waste and have to be managed. There are a variety of disposal options for Styrofoam—landfilling, waste-to-energy incineration and recycling—and each has both economic and environmental impacts. But all should be viewed as
important elements of an integrated waste management system. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Styrofoam packaging makes up less than 0.01 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream by weight.
And Styrofoam is recyclable. Styrofoam packaging is being recycled at an ever-increasing rate. The 2006 Recycling Rate Report issued by the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers (AFPR) shows over 56 million pounds of Styrofoam were recycled that year, including 32 million pounds of post-consumer and 24.6 million pounds of post-industrial packaging. Post-consumer Styrofoam recycling is increasing each year as more companies and communities develop recycling programs. This guide will help you determine if Styrofoam recycling is right for your organization.