Is Foam Recyclable? (And How Do You Dispose of Foam?)

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: July 23, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Is foam recyclable, anyway? Foam products are everywhere in our household for disposable cups, picnic plates, and more. 

Be that as it may, the vast majority don’t know their impacts on the environment. 

For a dedicated eco-conscious person, recycling is the bare minimum habit you can do to really make an impact.

Now that you can’t weed out the use of foam items in your daily lives, I did rigorous research to find out whether one can recycle packing foam or not. 

In addition to this, I’ll take you through the smartest way of disposing of foam.

Is Foam Recyclable?

No. Foam doesn’t biodegrade quickly; instead, it dissipates and becomes toxic as it degrades. 

Therefore, recycling isn’t a viable option. 

However, technically, some forms of foam are recyclable, but to pull the process, you need to spend a lot of money, resulting in a loss.

While the answer could be complex, here are a set of facts about foam:

  • Polystyrene, a component of foam, takes centuries to decompose
  • Styrofoam is categorized as a number 6 plastic, hence not easily recyclable
  • It’s costly to recycle foam
  • It’s better to choose an eco-alternative in packaging
  • The trash can harm aquatic life

Foam is a number 6 plastic. 

The material doesn’t absorb light, hence is hard to recycle. 

Recyclers need special equipment to recycle it into other products. 

There’s the use of a condensing machine. 

Again, polystyrene-based products are among the most daunting and demanding elements to recycle. 

That’s why many areas don’t collect foam products for recycling. 

Locations and recyclers are known to reject foam products with liquid and food contamination as they take a longer time to break down completely.

What Is Foam Made From?

It’s made of styrene, a petroleum-based product. 

Through a process called extrusion, it expands under pressure to form foam products. 

Styrene is a form of a number 6 plastic. So, it won’t break down easily. 

In most cases, manufacturers use foam for packaging consumer products. 

With little to no recycling support in many local areas, the waste ends up in landfills. 

It will take roughly 500 years to decompose. 

What Type of Foam is Recyclable?

There are different types of foam used for consumer packaging. 

Some are hard to recycle, while others are primarily recyclable. 

Let’s delve into those that you can recycle; 

  • Expanded polystyrene foam

Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) is the most accessible form of plastic. 

Made from the aromatic monomer styrene, the polymer is made from petroleum as the main component. 

It’s 100% recyclable. 

Businesses and consumers recycle it to produce new foam packaging. 

Other durable consumers processed from it include cameras, CD jewel cases, and coat hangers.

  • Extruded Polystyrene foam

XPS foam features a combination of properties, making it an efficient insulating material in the market. 

The closed-cell structure contributes to its superior thermal performance and high compressive strength.

Also, XPS is highly resistant to heat, pressure, cold, and water. 

Most manufacturers prefer it due to its reliability. That said, you’ll find it in model buildings, crafts, and the insulation of roofs. 

The fact that XPS cell structure is uniform and stronger is enough evidence that it’s easily recyclable and compressible. 

  • Polyethylene Foam

Also known as PE, polyethylene foam is created through the process of polymerization. It’s durable, and due to its insulation properties, industries use it for packaging. 

Its resistance to moisture and chemicals allows you to package your content safely. 

The material itself is cost-effective.

 And unlike EPS, this material is easy to fabricate and forms a thin layer suitable for packaging. 

You can recycle through the chemical process.

How Do You Dispose Of Foam?

Foam is extensively used, meaning that a significant amount will end up in landfills. 

Most of these materials used are human carcinogens – through water pollution, this can be a problem to human and marine life. 

The toxins and chemicals released by the materials will contaminate the water once they make their way into the oceans. But how do you dispose of it?

Recycling foam

If your foam is plain white, then it’s possible to recycle it. You can also check the label ‘recyclable’ to confirm its properties. 

Reach out to your local recycling locations to confirm what form of Styrofoam they’ll take. 

Reuse and upcycle foam 

Use foam to create props, crafts, and sets. 

The material is great for decorations and costumes because it’s stronger yet lightweight. 

Repurpose it into desired shapes to decorate and furnish your space. 

You can also use foam peanuts as planter filler to minimize soil waste. It helps in water draining as well. 

Conclusion

Heads up! The longer time that foam takes to biodegrade makes it a questionable option for recycling. 

Nonetheless, some types are recyclable though it’s a tedious and challenging process.

The material contains plastic, so at no time should you burn Styrofoam. 

Instead, the most innovative way to dispose of it is by reusing packaging peanuts and recycling some identifiable parts.

Other eco-alternatives to foam are;

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