Polystyrene Recycling: Foam Recycling Myths and Facts Revealed

The importance of polystyrene recycling cannot be underscored enough today. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an estimated 25 billion cups that contain this Dow Jones created chemical foam are tossed in landfills each year as opposed to being recycled. One key reason is because many municipalities and regions lack the recycling facilities to properly process and renew this recyclable material. As a result, the foam cups and other foam products created from this chemical formula often end up in landfills, on the sides of roads, in the ocean or littering our cities and parks. There are a number of common myths about recycling this foam that will be debunked in this article to better help you understand the associated factoids and real truths.

One myth, and a rather common one at that, is that polystyrene products actually are broken down into smaller elements that can poison or harm marine life or wildlife. However, up until now there has been no consistent research conducted that proves that these elements harm our wildlife or kill marine life and animals.

Another myth that is rather common is that foam is not able to be recycled. This myth is prevalent mostly because there are many places in the world where the facilities and equipment required to recycle foam are not yet in place, therefore making it impossible to recycle foam in these regions. As a matter of fact, foam can almost always be recycled. The foam can be re-purposed to be used as insulation, in popular adhesives, for plastic lumber like PVC, and in a number of other environmentally beneficial and reusable methods.

Small businesses have often veered away from recycling foam because they adhere to the myth that it would be impossible for them to get on board the green bandwagon, mostly attributed to the cost of recycling foam. A number of recycling entities offer bins that are collected weekly, which go directly to the appropriate recycling centers to reuse this foam. It’s really just a matter of small businesses having the foresight and innovation to contact these entities and procure a lasting relationship with them for recycling.

A rather common myth that you might hear about is that there are not any recycling centers that specialize in foam re-purposing. As a matter of fact, numerous companies maintain recycling centers that are spatially positioned all across the North American continent, serving Canada, the U.S. and Mexico with regional collection centers and warehouses.

Contrary to popular belief, foam is not more harmful and filling in landfills than paper. It’s actually quite the opposite. The foam products that are used in food services industries, for example, such as foam insulated cups, comprise less than 1 percent of all landfill constituents. In fact, many times landfills contain more paper cups than they do foam cups, mostly because people think that paper is better for the environment.

Hopefully these myths being debunked helped to open your eyes to the benefits of polystyrene recycling. As technology progresses, more centers and processes should serve to further revolutionize this industry. You can get on board by checking with your local recycling center to see if they offer foam reprocessing services.

Author Bio: Sarah Parkar is an internet marketer as well as a freelance writer. She is passionate about her work and has experience writing for a broad spectrum of topics. Parker continuously educates herself on the evolving practices of internet marketing, which is reflected in all her work. Her recent writings include facts about Polystyrene Recycling. Follow her on Twitter/Sarah_Parkar.


  • Reply April 11, 2014

    Michael de Filippi

    “However, up until now there has been no consistent research conducted that proves that these elements harm our wildlife or kill marine life and animals.”
    I wish I could take you along one of my coastal clean ups so you could see the damage this stuff is doing. It’s everywhere and it doesn’t break down. Even if you found no statistics regarding harm to wildlife/marine life its just common sense that these tiny pieces are being eaten mistakenly and absolutely will do damage. I can’t even imagine what it would do to our stomachs and bodies if we began eating polystyrene. I appreciate the time you took writing the piece but suggest you attend a coastal beach/bay clean up and you’ll see how much of this stuff is polluting our waters.

  • Reply April 12, 2014


    The writer may be independent and well intentioned, but this article sounds too much like industry obfuscation if ever there was one. EarthTechling needs to be more discerning about what it publishes if it is to retain legitimacy.

    • Reply April 14, 2014

      Jason Ridge

      Thanks for the note. We do believe in presenting a variety of views…some of which we disagree with. Only by knowing what opinions are out there, and letting people express those opinions, can we work to educate.

  • Reply May 9, 2014

    Michael D. Austin

    I agree with Mr de Filippi and TiredOldHippie. From long experience I can tell anyone this is an industry puff piece. Not that I begrudge the writer her living or the idea of polystyrene having more tightly-controlled uses. But EarthTechling’s model is to *look* like it’s doing the right thing while commerce and industry paves its way with cash. Any synthetic plastic with a half life of tens, or hundreds, or thousands of years will be a significant problem in any ecosystem, including that of your body. It has already been shown by Environmental Working Group’s vid, “10 Americans,” that chemicals in human bloodstreams disrupt or enhance systems at levels as low as 0.034 parts per billion. 1/400 of a pancake in a stack of pancakes 4,000 miles high, or some infinitesimal fraction like that. There are already well over 80,000 chemicals approved in the United States corrupt government systems, only because the government didn’t care to test them. And we wonder why so many people are getting sick.

    Anyone with any experience only has to look up the oceanic Garbage Patches. There are at now at least five. Start with the 5 Gyres Project if you have no experience with this. If you like plastic sushi for your children, be sure and use more polystyrene. The chemicals it adsorbs biomagnify up the food chain before it kills the hosts, so it can eventually make you sick.

    EarthTechling, you’re fast losing my attention because of incompletely presented articles like this. There’s only one set of facts about any topic, and its the presenter’s spin on them, or convenient absence of some of the facts, which tells the real truth.

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