Arlington Recycles: The Truth About Foam
By Office of Communication
Posted on August 16, 2019, August 16, 2019

Styrofoam: Can it be recycled?  If you get take out, pick up eggs from the grocery store or receive packages in the mail, you most likely end up with something that looks like Styrofoam. You might ask yourself, “Is this recyclable in my curbside program?” Then you flip it over and see a recycling symbol on the bottom, which can add to your confusion.

The truth is, no foam — whether egg cartons, meat trays or packing peanuts — is recyclable in your curbside bin.

In Arlington's recycling program, “Styrofoam” is part of a longer list of recycling contaminants. These unaccepted materials do more harm than good when placed in curbside recycling containers by causing otherwise clean loads of recyclables to become contaminated. This can make it more difficult to recover high quality acceptable curbside recycling materials.

So why do some foam products have a recycling symbol?

Those foam cups and trays many of us refer to as “Styrofoam” are actually polystyrene and are made from a petroleum and chemical mixture, like plastics. Polystyrene is also comprised of a lot of air, which is what makes it so lightweight. Actual Styrofoam is a trademarked name that refers to a unique kind of polystyrene, designed to be used in building materials.

Since polystyrene is comprised of petroleum, it does have properties that make it recyclable, but it has to be taken to the right location.

Click here to find a Styrofoam recycling dropoff station near you.

Many local grocery stores also have a store take-back program for recycling foam packaging that comes from the store. Shipping companies often take back packing peanuts in the store.

Click here to learn more about Arlington's Garbage & Recycling program. 

To lessen this type of waste, the City of Arlington encourages our residents to opt for re-usable food and drink containers whenever possible. Together we can all do our part to be environmental stewards!

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