Polystyrene foam is made up of 98% air and is currently taking up less than 1% of landfills. Most of this is made up of disposable coffee cups and protective packaging foam. Montreal is taking steps to reduce this percentage by allowing its residents to recycle plastic material number 6, polystyrene. For a minimum of five years, the Ecocentre in LaSalle will be accepting polystyrene foam products as well as non-foamed polystyrene such as yogurt cartons and some take-out food containers. There is currently no curbside recycling program for these products, but phase two of the project will include curbside collection.
The LaSalle Ecocenter is the only location in Montreal at the moment with enough space to recycle the material, but the hope is that when the Ecocenter in St. Laurent opens in 2015 that it will also be able to collect this material, according to Real Menard, an executive committee member who looks after environmental matters.
This polystyrene recycling project is not the first of its kind in Canada. Almost 200 towns and cities across the country offer curbside recycling of foam foodservice products, a quarter of which collect foam packaging as well. Another quarter offer drop-off recycling centers similar to LaSalle.
Montreal generated 2.5 tons of recycled polystyrene foam in the pilot year preceding the implementation of this project. The pilot was run in conjunction with the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.
A Canadian company, Polyform, has partnered with the city to reduce the company’s carbon footprint as well as costs. Polyform uses the recycled polystyrene foam in the construction of roads and building materials. Their competitors tend to recycle their own finished products and don’t collect materials from local authorities.
Polyform also has partnered with locals in Granby and Sherbrooke to collect roughly seven tons of foam daily from a combination of Ecocenters and furniture companies such as Sears. As Montreal is the newest edition to this recycling network, the city only makes up a fraction of Polyform’s collected materials.