On Saturday, May 3, 2014 more than three thousand volunteers gathered to clean up the LA River in Los Angeles, California in the 25th annual effort put forth by the local organization Friends of the LA River (FoLAR). Among the volunteers present, employees of the Dart Container Corporation Corona manufacturing facility pitched in to remove waste from the river and educate residents on the importance of foam recycling. Polystyrene foam, often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of Dow Chemical Company, makes up many forms of single-use foodservice items, such as hot beverage cups and take-away food containers.
The annual LA River Cleanup was first launched in 1990 with just 30 volunteers, but has now grown into a spring event that brings together thousands of local volunteers participating in river clean-up and recycling-related activities. This year’s clean-up efforts were a success as volunteers and coordinators were able to remove a significantly larger amount of waste over previous years. The employees of Dart Container, specifically, showed their commitment to the community by taking a major role throughout the day. According to Michael Westerfield, Corporate Director of Recycling Programs at Dart, “When I say that we are honored and excited to be a part of the Friends of the LA River cleanup, I’m not just speaking for Dart Container. Participating in this event means a great deal to our employees as well. They jump at the opportunity to give back to their community and to educate their neighbors about the curbside foam recycling programs available.”
The education component of the event is an opportunity for Dart Container employees to discuss with local residents the value and ease of recycling polystyrene foam. The Los Angeles area currently has 97 communities participating in curbside foam recycling programs, meaning residents can simply place separated foam waste on their curb alongside everyday waste to be picked up. Once the foam is collected, the material is processed and recycled to be used by manufacturers in the production of new consumer goods, such as picture frames, crown molding and plant containers.
Educating communities on the importance of recycling polystyrene foam and changing common misperceptions about foam is not a new goal of Dart Container. The organization has worked to implement foam recycling initiatives in several cities and organizations throughout the U.S. For example, Dart’s CARE (Cups Are REcyclable) program encourages the recycling of single-use foam cups within organizations by providing participants with a device to compress their own foam waste, which is then purchased by manufacturers for production use. This allows the organization to not only dispose of foam material in a responsible manner, but also develop additional economic opportunities by creating a newly processed material for purchase.