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?

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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.

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.