Recycling adds Styrofoam to acceptable list


Published on August 16, 2016

Foam polystyrene, or Styrofoam, will be accepted in blue bags at the curb starting in September. Shown are pieces of foam polystyrene (left), what the melted material looks like (right), and a picture frame made out of recycled Styrofoam.

Starting Sept. 1, residents of Pictou County will be able to recycle Styrofoam.

“We anticipate that people are going to be pretty happy about it,” said Susan MacDonald, regional co-ordinator for Pictou County Solid Waste. “People have been inquiring for some time now about Styrofoam and they’ve been disappointed that they can’t recycle it.”

MacDonald said foam polystyrene, known by the trademarked name of Styrofoam, will be accepted as recycling because the Kemptown facility where Pictou County’s recycling is sent, is now able to process the material. She said that facility has acquired a piece of machinery that heats and melts the foam polystyrene to reduce its size.

“Once they get a load of densified Styrofoam material, it’s shipped to a company that manufactures it into picture frames and decorative trims and mouldings,” she said.

She said the process removes the air inside the items, turning it into blocks that are sold to a company that makes the items. “It’s going to save a lot of space in landfills.”

MacDonald said confusion has surrounded Styrofoam because it has a triangle symbol on it, but she said that just designates that it’s made of plastic.

Foam polystyrene is made by heating beads of plastic with steam, expanding the beads, which are then placed into moulds and reheated with steam to form food service and protective packaging.

MacDonald said foam polystyrene should be placed in a blue bag with plastics, glass, metal and milk containers. If the material has been used as food packaging, it should be rinsed.

She said packing peanuts are not accepted because they’re difficult for sorters to handle, and because some of them are made of cornstarch.

People often use Styrofoam items such as plates, cups and bowls because they’re cheap to purchase. “In our schools, cafeterias use a lot of Styrofoam because of the price. Now they’re able to ask students to recycle it.”

MacDonald said Pictou County will join the Annapolis Valley as the only two places in the province with a foam polystyrene recycling program.

“We’re really looking forward to having this new program available for people in Pictou County. We feel it’s going to be well received,” she said.

While MacDonald said foam polystyrene isn’t a banned material from garbage and recycling it is voluntary, she hopes people will take part in salvaging it. “The bags won’t be rejected, but we hope people will recycle as much as possible.”

 

Acceptable items

 

Foam polystyrene items that can be placed in the same blue bag as plastics, glass, metal and milk containers effective Sept. 1:

plates, cups, bowls

meat trays (remove plastic wrap and absorbent pads)

take-out food containers

egg cartons

protective packaging blocks (from computers, appliances, etc.)

disposable beverage coolers

 

Items that aren’t permitted: spray foam or packing peanuts