Why Recycle Foam?

April 12, 2012

Recycling foam reduces greenhouse gases, saves money, reduces landfill use, and creates jobs. 

All polystyrene (PS) foam material can be recycled and used to make items such as clothes hangers, picture frames, rulers, architectural molding, and seedling containers. Recycling PS foam can reduce the amount of energy and materials used to make new products, which ultimately reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the product’s overall carbon footprint.

Foam lunch trays are significantly less expensive than alternatives products. For example, a typical foam lunch tray costs around 3 cents compared to a biodegradable tray that can cost between 15 to 25 cents. This higher cost not only impacts the school districts, but also government and commercial organizations. Some schools that have recycled foam products to reduce the amount of materials gathered for trash collection have saved as much as 20-40% in collection fees.[i]

Recycling is a business and helps create job opportunities on many levels – from the maintenance professionals to high-level engineers to business professionals. Recycling helps decrease waste, which reduces the amount of materials placed in landfills. A common misconception is that polystyrene foam products take-up most of our landfills, when in reality, foam foodservice products account for less than 1% by weight of total landfill waste.[ii]

Raising awareness and developing foam recycling programs is important. Use posters, newsletters, flyers and announcements to build interest, raise awareness, and educate. Create visible signage in recycling station areas and keep the enthusiasm going. Periodically announce the results of your organizations recycling efforts and focus attention on the program through media campaigns, giveaways, poster contests, and tie it into other annual activities or events.

Organizations that set up recycling programs keep material cost low, while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and landfill use. Raising awareness is the key to a successful recycling program!


[i] Kelly Puente, Recyclable Foam Trays a Cure for Long Beach Schools’ Headache, PRESS-TELEGRAM, May 19, 2011,available at http://www.presstelegram.com/ci_18100171?source=rv.

[ii] United States Environmental Protection Agency, Municipal Solid Waste in the United States 2010 Facts and Figures, November 2011, Table 3