Polystyrene, a.k.a. Styrofoam®

Oh, Styrofoam…thou art a dunghill villain and a petrol-fed knave…or words to that effect. Elizabethan insults aside, polystyrene is petroleum-based, contains potentially carcinogenic components and takes eons to biodegrade. Currently, recycling markets for polystyrene are extremely limited, so using less—or none at all!—is the best policy. For instance, take home your restaurant leftovers in a reusable tupperware container. Use your own to-go coffee mug for that mocha latte.

But there are some recycling options. If you get a package with polystyrene peanuts, take them to a packing store such as FedEx or UPS. These folks love free product…and you’ll love keeping those plastic non-legumes out of the landfill.

In the Houston area, there is one drop-off location for foam: the Fort Bend County Recycling Center. In Central Texas, the one drop-off spot is Cycled Plastics. These might be a far trip for most of us, but perhaps it will appear closer if you imagine instead everyone’s Styrofoam stacked in piles of stinking, toxic garbage hundreds of feet tall for thousands of years.

19 Responses

  1. Have a lot of styrofoam I would like to recycle.

    • Not an easy question, William. What part of the state do you live in?

    • Hi y’all (from Dallas),

      Here are two options for recycling *non-peanut Styrofoam packaging*, that is, for recycling the oddly shaped white plastic chunks that come in shipping boxes with computers and other fragile stuff. Both are available through the trade association
      Association of Foam Packaging Recyclers (AFPR),

      1) LIST OF DROP-OFF SITES BY STATE – These are locations (99% or so are companies) which will accept non-peanut Styrofoam packaging from individuals. The list tends to be a bit out of date (e.g.: it lists Cycled Plastics, but not Fort Bend County, and 1 or 2 of the Dallas area companies are no longer in business!), so call first before you pack up your Styrofoam. [Click on “Recycling Resources for Consumers,” then “drop-off location.”]

      2) LIST OF MAIL-IN LOCATIONS! Yes, indeed, you can densify all that Styrofoam as best you can by hand, foot, etc., box up your densified Styrofoam, and call the PO for free pick up for mailing (not free) to one of the locations listed. [Click on “Recycling Resources for Consumers,” then “mail-back location” for a list of locations by region.]

      Tommie Kinney

      PS #1 I just kind of stumbled across – sorry if someone just gave all this info. a few days ago! At any rate, I hope this is helpful.

      PS #2 How to tell if you’ve got Styrofoam/EPS packaging
      If it’s got the code #6 stamped on it, it should be EPS packaging (aka Styrofoam).

  2. The City of Houston Recylcing Center on Westpark at 59 will now take styrofoam sheets. They also took all my styrofoam coolers (the ones that hams etc. come in). They do not take peanuts or drink/food containers.

  3. Good news We here in Galveston will be able to recycle Styrofoam at the local recycling center by Earth day they have just ordred a machine to reduce it will keep you posted when its up and going

  4. Okay Galveston is now recycling styrofoam Please check out the web site

  5. […] can recycle in your area and where you can go to recycle it.  Browsing through the website I found this page on Styrofoam recycling, which had this wise advice on Styrofoam aka polystyrene: [P]olystyrene […]

  6. Cycled Plastics in Austin is now out or business. No more styrofoam recycling there!

  7. I am in need of a solution for recycling a few truckloads of Styrofoam coming from Laredo. Does anyone know of a local solution for the material? Please contact:

  8. Went to HDI today in Austin to recycle a lot of styrofoam and they are closed due to electrical problems.

  9. Houston now has 2 Environmental service centers that take solid block styrofoam. check out the hours and info:

  10. If you are in the Austin area We use styrofoam to build ECO houses.
    Check us out. bring us all the block styrofoam you want we will grind it up and build sustainable houses out of it. All block styrofoam must be in clear plastic bags. No packing peanuts. We also take cans and glass bottles. We build Earthships.

    • Captain Kirk, I’ve checked out your website and, unless I missed something, it’s not clear to me where I can drop off block styrofoam for you to use to build ECO houses. Please advise. Thank you.

  11. HDI Plastics in just stopped taking styrofoam- ugh!!! They are looking into possibly having drop off sites around town, but it’s not definite. Calling or e-mailing them would be best- I get an e-mail response back very quickly!

  12. Any body knows if there is a company that picks up? I am working for a school district, and we want to recycle those lunch trays but can’t store them too long due to pest control issues.

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