Can I Put Styrofoam in the Recycle Bin?

Styrofoam Food Container

Styrofoam should only be put into the recycle bin if it is an approved item to be recycled in your area. There are many cities that will not accept Styrofoam in the curbside recycle bin. You should check with whoever handles your recycle to verify what items are acceptable to be placed in the recycle bin. Generally, this will be whoever you pay local taxes to for recycling pickup (i.e. your city) or a private waste management company who you pay for service.

Find a Drop-off Site

If you are looking for a drop-off location to recycle your Styrofoam, you can search for one by entering your zip code on EPS Industry Alliance. Once you enter your zip code, a map will show you the recycling centers nearest to you that will accept Styrofoam and/or other recyclable items.

Recycling Contamination

Recycling contamination occurs when material that is unable to be recycled is placed in the recycle bin. It also occurs when recyclable material is containment with debris such as food remains or when recyclable items are co-mingled with non-recyclable material.

For example, tossing Styrofoam into the recycling bin when your city does not accept this material for recycling would be recycling contamination. Another example of contamination would be placing a recyclable inside a bag that is not recyclable and then putting that bag in the recycling bin.

It is important to avoid contamination because items that cannot be recycled are sorted out at the recycling facility and sent to the landfill. When perfectly acceptable recyclable material is meshed with items that cannot be recycled, all items may be dumped. Ultimately, there is a great cost to dealing with recycling contamination which includes labor hours and potential harm to the machinery.

Recycling Tips

Please consider following the below tips to help deter recycling contamination:

  • Know What’s Recyclable – In my much younger years I was careless about what I threw into the recycling bin. One day I decided to thoroughly review the items that were acceptable to recycle on our city’s website. I learned a lot and realized I had made several mistakes about items I recycled in the past. Learn your local recycling guidelines as soon as you are able to recycle to avoid mistakes. 
  • Clean Your Recyclables – I know, it can be a major pain to clean items such as containers or bottles that are riddled with food debris. However, there is a possibility that your unclean items will be rejected from being recycled at the facility. You don’t have to wash your recyclables like you might the fine China for Christmas dinner, but you should give them a quick rinse to eliminate most of the food remains. 
  • Be Deliberate – Be sure to examine the material before you add it to the recycling bin. Consciously separate the materials that can be recycled with the items that cannot be recycled. Make a conscious effort not to be careless about your recycling.