Foam: to recycle or not to recycle, that is the question

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?

styrofoamcollage
EPS Foam Block and EPS Foam Mold

EPS is a #6 plastic, but only molds, blocks and coolers can be recycled. Drop them off at ACH Foam Technologies. In order to be recycled, EPS must be white and clean.

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.

Styrofoam™ peanuts are also not recyclable in the metro area.

Don’t be fooled by look-alikes

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
  • Squeezable
  • Bends but does not break

How is EPS recycled?

Is this EPS Recyclable? These items ARE recyclable: molds, blocks and coolers. These items ARE NOT recyclable: meat trays, egg cartons, cups, plates, and bowls, takeout containers, packing peanuts, and LDPE/PE-LD packing foam.

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.

Congratulations to our 2015 SWMD grantees!

One of the most important things the MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD) does is provide financial support to organizations in our region for projects that reduce the amount of material we send to landfills. The district receives funding every year from the fees collected from the state’s landfills and transfer stations. Half of that amount is used to fund local waste reduction, reuse and recycling projects through a grant program.

We are very proud of our 2015 group of grant recipients and excited about their projects. The district could not accomplish its waste diversion goals without our grantees!

The 2015 grant projects are:

  • Avenue of Life: $203,492 to support the second year of a regional mattress recycling program.
  • Bridging The Gap: $79,740 to provide one-on-one consultations and assistance to businesses interested in starting new or expanding existing recycling programs.
  • City of Kearney: $5,700 to purchase a container to collect electronics at the Kearney Drop-off Recycling Center.
  • Kansas City Design Center: $30,000 to design a comprehensive, appealing and convenient recycling system for downtown Kansas City.
  • Meredith Car Sales & Recycling: $19,916 to purchase a trailer and hold at least 10 electronic recycling collection events in Cass County.
  • Missouri Organic: $4,000 to purchase carts and establish a paper towel composting program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus.
  • Missouri Recycling Association: $12,000 to support costs for a keynote speaker and AV equipment at the annual recycling conference scheduled for September in Kansas City.
  • Project Central: $47,044 to work with five schools to set up recycling and/or composting programs.
  • Southeast Enterprises: $12,000 to support transportation costs associated with a regional holiday light recycling program.
  • Sleepyhead Beds: $7,000 for staffing to conduct six mattress collection events and six presentations in the region north of the Missouri River. Sleepyhead Beds holds these events to collect quality used mattresses which are sanitized and provided to children in need.
  • The Rehabilitation Institute: $80,000 to collect and divert durable medical equipment from the waste stream. Equipment is then either repaired and made available for reuse, or recycled.
  • Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity ReStore: $49,434 to provide a truck and staffing at the Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park to capture reusable materials before they enter the landfill.

Visit the Solid Waste Management District’s website to learn more about the grant program.

Make your Super Bowl recycling list

KSHB Super Bowl Recycling
Video by KSHB

The hosts of Kansas City Live went up against a fifth grader to find out what is recyclable at a Super Bowl party. Now, it’s your turn. Here’s a list of items that may show up at your party and where they can be recycled:

  • Plastic containers (tubs for dips, veggie/fruit and dessert trays) – Most plastic food and beverage containers are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. No Styrofoam food or beverage containers are recyclable.
  • Glass bottles and jars – Glass food and beverage containers are recyclable in the big, purple Ripple Glass bins located throughout the metro area. The metal lids are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. Large metal lids (like salsa jars) can go directly in the recycling bin, while small metal lids and bottle caps should be put in a tin can with the top crimped shut. This will keep them from falling through the sorting machinery.
  • Chip bags – Most chip bags are not recyclable because they are made from multiple types of plastic. For example, if it has a shiny foil interior it’s not recyclable. Bags that are definitely recyclable are the clear tortilla chip bags. These bags can be recycled at any big box store or grocery store that has a bin for plastic bag recycling.
  • Disposable plates, cups and utensils – The plastic types are not recyclable due to food contamination and low value of plastic resin. Paper plates and cups can be composted in your backyard compost bin. A greener alternative is to use your regular dishware or durable plastic dishware that can be washed and used over and over again.
  • Paper napkins – Can be composted in your backyard compost bin. A greener alternative is to use cloth napkins.
  • Grocery sacks – Both plastic and paper are recyclable. Plastic bags can be recycled at any big box store and grocery store that has a bin for plastic bag recycling. Paper bags are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. A greener alternative is to use reusable bags.
  • Cracker boxes – Made from paperboard, i.e., flat cardboard, these are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. The plastic bag inside can be recycled at any big box store and grocery store that has a bin for plastic bag recycling.
  • Aluminum foil & trays – Aluminum foil products can be recycled at several recycling centers in the metro area.
  • Pizza boxes – The key is to tear it in half: the clean top goes in your recycling bin or to a recycling center, and the dirty bottom can go in your backyard compost bin.

For more information on waste reduction and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.

Real vs. artificial holiday trees: which is the greener choice?

Every holiday season we hear the same question: is it better for the environment to buy a real tree or an artificial tree? Currently, of all the American households displaying trees, 80 percent are artificial trees and 20 percent are real.

A recent study — sponsored by the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) and conducted by third-party international research firm PE International — showed that purchasing either a real or artificial tree has a negligible impact on the environment. However, the study found that length of ownership, disposal method and “tree miles” can make a difference on which tree is environmentally preferable.

ACTA encourages consumers to consider five helpful tips when deciding which tree to buy this year:

  • If you buy a real tree, buy from a local farm if possible.
  • Consider “tree miles” — How far the tree had to travel to get to the store or farm, and how far you had to travel to get it.
  • Consider purchasing an artificial tree to minimize your environmental impacts if you have purchased more than nine live trees in the last nine years.
  • If you own an artificial tree, plan to use it for at least six to nine years.  If you replace an artificial tree, donate the old one instead of disposing it.
  • Properly dispose of your natural holiday tree. Find local disposal services at RecycleSpot.org!

Missouri bans the disposal of real holiday trees and greenery, just like it does other yard waste materials, and Kansas discourages the practice. Area communities, businesses and organizations offer a number of ways to recycle those trees instead of trashing them. These services divert materials from landfills while creating resources that can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, trees can be shredded into mulch that is used for trail surfaces, erosion control and landscaping, or left whole to create fish habitats in area lakes.

To ensure a pure recycling stream and protect workers and machinery, it’s very important to remove lights, decorations, plastic bags, stands, metal frames, nails and wire from trees and greenery before recycling them.

For more information on where to donate your artificial tree or recycle your real tree and greenery, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.

Mattress recycling comes to Kansas City

Do you have a mattress that you no longer want or use? You now have options to recycle that old mattress in the Kansas City area.

The following organizations and businesses offer mattress and box spring recycling services:

Mattresses damage landfill equipment and do not easily compress, taking up about 23 cubic feet of space each. Fortunately, mattresses are 100 percent recyclable. They are made of foam, polyester, cotton, metal, wood and shoddy (reclaimed wool fabric), all of which can be re-manufactured into other products.

When you recycle or donate your mattress you can support organizations that do more than keep mattresses out of landfills. Avenue of Life helps low-income individuals and families break the cycle of poverty by providing jobs to those with barriers to employment, and Sleepyhead Beds provides clean, recycled beds and bedding to children in need. These organizations have partnered with each other to make sure all mattresses they receive are donated back to families or recycled. Avenue of Life collects all mattresses recycled at Courtney Ridge Landfill, Excelsior Springs Recycling Center and Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park.

For more information, visit RecycleSpot.org or call 816-474-8326.