What floats, insulates, and is 98 percent air? It’s expanded polystyrene (EPS), often mistakenly called Styrofoam™ (Styrofoam is a trademarked brand owned and manufactured by The Dow Chemical Company). But what kind — if any — can be recycled in the Kansas City metro area?
It’s labeled “6”, so it’s recyclable — right?
EPS is a #6 plastic, but only molds, blocks, coolers and packing peanuts can be recycled. Drop them off at Kansas City Community Recycling Centers and ACH Foam Technologies. In order to be recycled, EPS must be white and clean. EPS packing peanuts can also be recycled at Post Net and select locations of The UPS Store.
Any type of EPS that has had contact with food or beverages – meat trays, coffee cups, egg cartons, takeout containers, disposable plates – cannot be recycled in the metro area. Instead, purchase and use containers that are durable or recyclable.
Don’t be fooled by look-alikes
Corn starch-based packing peanuts are not accepted for recycling in the Kansas City metro area. How can you tell? If it dissolves in water, it’s corn starch. These can also be reused or composted.
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) packing foam is often mistaken for EPS. You can tell if it’s LDPE if it is:
- Labeled PE-LD or LDPE with the number 4
- Bends but does not break
How is EPS recycled?
A common way to recycle EPS is through a process called densification: creating dense material from lighter material. Densification is achieved through extreme pressure, applied by hydraulic or electric rams. The air cells in the plastic foam are collapsed, resulting in a great reduction in volume. This process can make EPS foam 50 to 90 times denser. The output is usually formed into continuous, squared “logs”, which can be easily cut or broken into convenient lengths for storage or shipment.
What products are made from recycled EPS?
There are many products made from recycled EPS, including:
- packing material
- insulation products
- park benches
- door and window frames
- crown molding
- picture frames
- safety helmets
- flower pots
- seedling containers
For more information on waste reduction and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.