A while ago I had lots of foam board to waste after a certain science project.
They weren’t contaminated yet but I was left wondering where to take them, keeping in mind that finding a raw foam board vendor is never an easy feat. Is foam board recyclable?
Foam Board Explained
Now if you’re not familiar with foam board, you’re probably familiar with cardboard because the two are very similar.
Cardboard is two sheets of paper that sandwich a corrugated layer, to make something that’s very strong but very light.
The Foam board is very similar. It’s simply two pieces of paper that sandwich a layer of foam.
It comes in different sizes, shapes, and colors, but the standard size you can get almost anywhere is 20 inches by 30 inches.
Most foam boards are 3/16 inches or five millimeters thick.
That’s the standard foam board you can buy at different places and it comes in a lot of colors like black, green, and even comes in hues and different tones on the sides.
I’ve also seen silver-colored foam boards. Regardless of the measurements, color, or shape, foam boards are very durable stuff.
Oh, they are very popular with students who are doing science projects or anything along those lines.
What’s the Recyclability of Foam Board?
While your ordinary foam board is a panel surrounded by paper, it has a core made of plastic or polystyrene (also known as styrofoam).
Before throwing away foam board, it’s essential to figure out what material it is made of, and of course, the chemical properties of that material.
It’s incredibly easy to tell if what you have is recyclable or not.
For most foam boards, you just need to check out a recycling logo on the packaging.
Next, check if the packaging has a recycling code, usually located at the center or the trademark logo.
If the number is 6–, you can be sure that your foam board has styrofoam plastic.
So, what do you do with your polystyrene-core foam board? Maybe you’ve people say it’s not recyclable and that it can stay in a landfill for decades.
But then, it has a recycling symbol and a number six on the packaging.
Although manufacturers may want you to believe that they’re recyclable, the truth is: only a few governments and recycling centers accept them.
Of course, there are a few exceptions, but the bottom line is that polystyrene is a major curbside contaminant, and that’s why most recycling centers avoid them.
Does Foam Board Go in the Recycle Bin?
The straight answer to this question is NO. However, the two papers that surround the core are recyclable; paper is degradable.
The reason most recycling programs don’t accept foam boards and especially the insulation material is because of the toxic chemicals the material contains.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) contains benzene and petroleum, which are some of the chemicals that are known to cause cancer.
So, your foam board is not able to go in the recycle bin.
If you can, avoid using conventional foam boards as they may take centuries to biodegrade.
Besides, the breakdown won’t begin until after the board has been thrown away or dumped in a landfill.
On the other hand, biodegradable foam boards take up to five years to fully decompose.
Is White Foam Board Recyclable?
White foam boards are made of styrofoam, a plastic that is often reused in making these boards.
Most manufacturers prefer reusing styrofoam rather than recycling it.
Now that most recycling centers do not accept white foam, what do you do with it? The first step is to reduce your usage of white foam.
Better still, you might want to adopt other better panels. Biodegradable foam boards are a great alternative.
These are compostable in all recycling facilities.
How to Recycle Foam Board in the US
If you still want to recycle foam board, here’s how to do it in the US:
- Check out recycling websites. If your foam board has a recycling logo, call a recycling center in your hood to check if they accept foam boards.
- Try alternatives. If your local recycler doesn’t accept foam boards or if there’s no recycling center near you, there are numerous mail-in programs that can accept your materials.
- Simply reuse. If you’re in a remote city, the only option available could be to reuse your foam board.
As you can see, recycling foam boards is not an easy feat.
Finding a recycling center that can accept your material is even more difficult because of the nature of polystyrene used in making foam.
Of course, we understand why that is so; foam contains toxic chemicals that can expose you and your loved ones to cancer.
Then, it may take your foam board decades or even centuries to fully degrade.