Polystyrene - Plastic #6
Polystyrene products are widely used as packing material to protect goods from damage while in transit. There are four main types of polystyrene packaging materials that are commonly used.
1. Foam plates, cups and trays. These are made from expanded polystyrene foam in the same process that is used to make expanded polystyrene blocks. Often people erroneously refer to these items as styrofoam. However, styrofoam is actually a brand name owned by the Dow Chemical company and refers to polystyrene products manufactured using a closed cell extrusion process which is quite different from the expanded polystyrene foam manufacturing process.
2. Expanded polystyrene blocks - used in the shipment of large equipment such as computers and other household appliances.
3. Polystyrene packing peanuts. Used in the shipment of small items as box packing fill.
4. Polystyrene containers. Some supermarket packaging is made from polystyrene such as the small individual serving yogurt pots and some pre-packaged fruit or vegetable containers. These have #6 plastic number inside the chasing arrows recycling symbol stamped on the bottom of the container or pot.
Look for ways that you can reduce the amount of polystyrene waste that you generate.
For example, using a reusable cup instead of the disposable polystyrene cups will stop some polystyrene from entering the waste stream.
Many delivery companies have switched to using sealed polyethylene (plastic #2 or #4) pouches filled with air instead of polystyrene packing peanuts. These are much better for the environment than packing peanuts as they require significantly less plastic to manufacture and are much easier for the customer to recycle. The polyethylene bag can simply be pierced to let the air out, and then recycled the with other plastic bags and polyethylene wraps. For more details see our plastic bag recycling page.
Meat trays are much harder to avoid (unless you are vegetarian that is). Polystyrene meat trays are not accepted for recycling because they are contaminated by uncooked meat products; they must be disposed of in your general trash. Biodegradable meat trays made from plant oils are in development but are not widely available due to high manufacturing costs. Improvements in manufacturing efficiency will hopefully bring the cost of these trays closer to the cost of polystyrene food trays and we will begin to see more and more of them on our supermarket shelves.
Alternatives to single use polystyrene food and drink containers
Compostable alternatives to foam cups, plates or food service trays are available.
Consider using compostable food service items (plates, cups, trays, cutlery) at your school, workplace canteen or fast food service restaurant. If the organic waste is collected separately from other waste items you can significantly reduce your waste disposal costs.
Businesses that supply compostable food service items.
A list of businesses that will collect and compost organic waste in New Jersey can be found on our organic waste recycling page.
Although the polystyrene used in meat trays cannot be recycled, the polystyrene used in shipping boxes, to protect the items inside, can be readily recycled.
Packing peanuts made from polystyrene can be taken to your local Mail Boxes Etc stores, PostNet stores or UPS stores, where they will be reused in future packing shipments. For your nearest Mail Boxes Etc, PostNet or UPS store click on the company names listed below.
UPS stores will also accept bubble wrap for reuse in their deliveries so long as you avoid the temptation to pop the 'bubbles.'
Pack Ship n More, located at 300 Main Street, Madison, NJ 07940, will also accept packing peanuts, bubble wrap, cell phones, printer cartridges and rechargeable batteries for recycling.
Packing Polystyrene Blocks (Expanded Polystyrene)
The polystyrene foam blocks, commonly used for the packaging of computers, laptops, kitchen appliances and televisions, can be taken to specialist companies for recycling throughout New Jersey.
This company will accept both foam packing peanuts and foam blocks used for the shipping of goods. Foam egg boxes or foam meat trays will NOT be accepted. Please go to the Foam Pack Industries website for details of exactly which types of polystyrene products they will accept.
Remove any pieces of tape, stickers, staples or labels from the polystyrene blocks before you take them to the recycling facility. Materials will be accepted from both businesses and residents.
72 Fadem Rd
Springfield, NJ 07081
Mon-Fri 8 am - 4 pm
New Jersey Residents in western or southern NJ may find that their nearest expanded polystyrene (EPS) block recycling location is just across the state border in either Pennsylvania or Delaware. Here are a list of businesses that accept both small and large quantities of expanded polystyrene waste for drop off by either NJ residents or commercial organizations.
Raybob Packaging, Inc.
PP-6 River Rd.
Tullytown, PA 19007
Tel: (215) 943-4799
Fax: (215) 943-0376
Mon-Fri 8 am - 4 pm
Raybob Packaging will accept expanded polystyrene packaging, blocks and coolers as well as packing peanuts. All materials should be clean and free from staples, tape or labels etc.
Polystyrene Food Trays, Plates and Cups Recycling
Disposable, single use Polystyrene food trays, plates and cups can be recycled but you have to scrape any food debris from the polystyrene and also rinse any foam cups before the material will be accepted by the recycling company. If your school or organization uses a lot of disposable polystyrene trays/plates each day in the canteen then you may be able to reduce your overall waste disposal costs if you arrange for these materials to be recycled.
Dart Container Corporation is a manufacturer of polystyrene products and offers a recycling program to recycling polystyrene waste (from other suppliers as well as their own products). Dart will supply a school or other organization with a polystyrene densifier machine which will compact the polystyrene trays, plates or cups down to about a tenth of their original volume. By compacting the polystyrene waste, to remove the air, transportation of this waste becomes much more cost effective and reduces the amount of energy spent in the transportation process. The compacted polystyrene cylinders will be collected once a month. by Dart who will then convert the polystyrene into small beads to be sold to other polystyrene manufacturers to make new products. This recycling program costs $300 per year but can often pay for itself by allowing you to reduce the frequency or number of your general trash collections.
For more information consult the Dart website or contact Derrick Vaniskhian at (201)-459-6301
Many businesses listed on the AFPR website as drop-off locations for expanded polystyrene only accept large quantities for recycling so please contact the company to find out what they will accept before you make the trip.