Can Thermocol Be Recycled?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: October 30, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Yes, thermocol can be recycled but you should not put it in the recycling bin. 

If you are searching for a way to get rid of unwanted thermocol, do not place it in your recycling bin at home. 

Instead, you should find your nearest thermocol recycling facility and drop it off. 

You can also place it in your trash bin, or find an alternative use for it. 

What is thermocol?

Invented in 1839, thermocol is a synthetic substance made from polystyrene. 

Polystyrene is a versatile substance that is derived from petroleum. 

Compromised with styrene and benzene, thermocol is a dense, lightweight material. 

Considered a plastic, thermocol is a growing threat to our planet’s trash problem due to its incompatibility with typical recycling facilities. 

What is thermocol used for?

Thermocol is used in many forms throughout our everyday lives. 

You can find thermocol in:

  • Food packaging
  • Construction materials
  • Medical Packaging
  • Take-out containers
  • Disposable cups
  • Electrical goods
  • Furniture

Most thermocol that you will encounter is for shipping purposes. 

Packing peanuts, wrapping sheets, and even custom foam packaging are all made from thermocol. 

Items that are shipped but need to be kept cold or frozen are oftentimes shipped in entire thermocol boxes.

How is thermocol made?

Thermocol is made by using raw styrofoam pellets. 

The pellets are heated to a very high temperature to cause the styrofoam to melt together. 

This fusion process then creates a very strong, dense material that is composed of 90% air.

The material can then be further manipulated to take on other forms. It can be reheated and stretched, making the smooth foam material that resembles most take-out containers. 

It can also be fused into thick pieces suitable for construction materials and furniture. 

Why can’t I put thermocol in the recycling bin?

The process of recycling is not conducive to thermocol, therefore rendering it useless. 

Typical recycling methods involve using some type of heat and chemicals. 

However, when thermocol is exposed to heat, it will melt down. 

Further, thermocol is extremely volatile when exposed to most chemicals.

In recent years cities and towns throughout the world have recognized the growing trash problem and the role that thermocol has. 

To combat the issue, large recycling centers have begun to add thermocol and styrofoam recycling facilities. 

You can gather up the old thermocol you have lying around and take them to these facilities to be recycled. 

In some areas, there is a service that will come to your location to pick up unwanted thermocol. 

Be sure to call in your area to learn what services are available to you.

Can I burn thermocol to get rid of it?

No, you should never burn thermocol to get rid of it. 

Thermocol when incinerated produces highly toxic gases to both humans and the environment. 

If you do not have a recycling facility in your area, choose to reuse the thermocol or put it in the trash bin.

How can I reuse thermocol?

Although you can’t put thermocol into the recycling bin, there are many different ways to reuse the material before you consider trashing it. 

Alternative uses for thermocol before trashing it can include:

  • Reuse packaging material for your own shipping needs.
  • Use them for craft projects
  • Conduct science experiments
  • Gardening

Save for your next shipping

If you receive your thermocol as shipping container packaging, save it and reuse it the next time you need to ship something yourself. 

This is one of the simplest ways to reuse the material. 

Although new thermocol for shipping is cheap, why add to the growing trash problem?

Use thermocol for craft projects

A single Pinterest or YouTube search will render hundreds, if not thousands, of amazing do-it-yourself projects that use old thermocol products. A few of the projects you can create are:

  • Upcycled storage containers
  • Flower vases
  • Picture frames
  • Holiday decor

Thermocol is also great for reuse in kids craft projects. 

Use recycled thermocol for solar system diagrams, shadow boxes, and valentine’s day boxes in the classrooms.

Conduct Science Experiments

Thermocol is an excellent material to conduct science experiments, especially for younger children! A safe and fun experiment to try is to grab an orange and squeeze the juice over the thermocol to watch it almost vanish before your eyes.

You can also dissolve thermocol in acetone. While this experiment is not safe for small children, with the help of an adult you can dip the thermocol into a cup of acetone and watch it go from a solid to a liquid instantly. 

Be sure to wear gloves and protective eyewear during this project for safety purposes. 

Reuse thermocol for gardening

Another easy way to reuse thermocol is to use them for gardening. 

Thermocol shipping boxes and other boxes like styrofoam coolers are great to use for starting plants. 

To use them for gardening, simple poke or drill drainage holes in the bottom and fill them up with soil and seeds.

In most cases, thermocol is suitable for starting plants and then transferring to a bigger, deeper pot or in the ground. 

However, you can use thermocol boxes for container plants and leave them indefinitely. 

Plants like tomatoes, cabbages, beans, and parsley are all container plants that would do well in recycled boxes. 

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