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Polystyrene and other types of foam are not recyclable in City of Fort Lauderdale containers. However, there are ways of recycling many things made of foam.

The following items made of foam may not be placed in our blue carts, nor any public space container.

  • Egg cartons
  • Food trays (such as used to hold meats, fish and vegetables)
  • "Clamshell" packaging
  • Foam containers for take-away food
  • Foam beverage cups
  • Packing peanuts
  • Packing blocks or shaped fillers
  • Foam insulation

Foam and plastic drop binsMost supermarkets and "big box" stores participate in a large-scale cooperative foam recycling program. You can bring egg cartons, trays, and clamshell containers back to the store and drop in specially marked bins.

Packing materials (such as packing peanuts and foam blocks, can be taken to shipment outlets that will gladly re-use them. Many charities will also accept these to use in their operations.  According to the Plastic Loose Fill Council, "In thousands of cities and towns, local mail and parcel centers, craft and gift shops, camera, hardware and specialty stores accept loose fill from the public for reuse. There are collection centers in every state."

The Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers also offers a mail-back program for many type of polystyrene, though there are restrictions about what will be accepted.

If you are unable to take advantage of one of these options, or have other types of foam, please place it in your garbage container for collection.

What is polystyrene?

Polystyrene is a petroleum-based plastic product. Many people refer to it as "Styrofoam," which is actually the brand name of a polystyrene foam used for insulation. Polystyrene has good thermal insulation properties, making it perfect for packaging hot foods and beverages. It is relatively low weight and low cost, again making it desirable to food retailers and other distributors. Its light weight and other properties also make it the perfect filler for things like bicycle helmets and life vests. Polystyrene products are approximately 98% air.

Unfortunately, the low weight also contributes to it being a common form of litter, as it easily blows out of uncovered or overflowing trashcans. Polystyrene is also extremely slow to degrade, causing controversy over its use in the environmental community. Its extreme light weight doesn't add a lot to garbage tonnage, but its volume adds up in the landfill.

Polystyrene can also be found in a non-foam, clear form as well, such as that in CD or DVD cases. Even though these items are marked with the #6 plastics symbol, they are not recyclable via curbside collection.

Why can't Fort Lauderdale recycle polystyrene?

Many polystyrene items can be recycled, however it requires specialized handling and must be diverted from other types of recycling. Currently, our recycling processer is not equipped to separate polystyrene from other recyclables. If this should change, we will let you know.

Does the polystyrene I drop at the specialized bins at the supermarket really get recycled?

Yes! Clean dry polystyrene can be made into a variety of useful products that are in everything from toys to buildings. To find out more about polystyrene itself and its recycling, visit this page at How Stuff Works.

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