Girl Scout Initiates Foam Recycling Program

November 12, 2012

Local Girl Scout, Jane Sullebarger, initiated a project working with town officials to bring polystyrene foam (sometimes mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company) recycling to the Harvard transfer station at least two times in the next year. The transfer station currently accepts a wide range of material for recycling including plastic containers, aluminum cans and cardboard boxes. Sullebarger is working with Framingham-based company ReFoamIt to build a foam recycling program starting on January 5th to accept everything from packing peanuts to foam take-out containers.

Sullebarger introduced her plan to the Board of Selectmen last month and has been working with the Department of Public Works and the Transfer Station Committee to put her plan into action.

“This would be beneficial to Harvard because Styrofoam is very bulky, and I don’t think we realize how much of it goes through our homes,” she told the board.

One of the major issues facing Sullebarger is educating the public and showing them that foam can be recycled into new products. Polystyrene foam label #6 includes packing blocks, packing peanuts, certain meat and produce trays, take-out containers, coffee cups, foam egg cartons, and white insulation sheets. ReFoamIt recycles the foam by compressing the foam down to a plastic block or pellets, which can be sold and used in a number of plastic products.

Sullebarger is planning to bring ReFoamIt to the transfer station for two collection days with the first collection day shortly after the upcoming holidays. Selectman Bill Johnson, in support of Sullebarger’s initiatives, suggests that the transfer station start collecting plastic foam products a week earlier on December 29th, the first Saturday after Christmas. The transfer station can store the material until collection day.

“I think people would rather get rid of things sooner rather than later,” Johnson said.

Once the collection day is confirmed, Sullebarger will have the task of getting the word out to town residents. Sullebarger plans to post flyers around town, and she told Selectmen, “I have an idea to e-vite the whole town.” Sullebarger’s initiative not only earned her the Gold Award, the highest achievement in the Girl Scouts, but positioned her as a leader in helping communities progress their recycling programs.

Source: Harvard Press