What is Styrofoam exactly, and why can't you recycle it in Baltimore county? Read on for an excerpt from the county recycling newsletter that answers this FAQ...
"...Savvy residents are already aware of the materials accepted, and not accepted, in Baltimore County’s single stream program. However, even the most avid recycler may not realize why certain types of materials are not accepted. In this issue of The REsource, we will address some questions concerning expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. This material is often generically referred to as “Styrofoam™.” However, the trademarked brand name actually references a different type of polystyrene that is extruded (pressed through a die to form a desired shape), not expanded. Neither form of polystyrene is accepted for recycling in Baltimore County.
EPS is a form of polystyrene plastic that can be used for numerous purposes, including packing material, food and beverage containers, and building insulation. Many manufacturers favor EPS as a material due to its low weight, rigid structure, and formability. However, these same properties also make EPS very difficult to recycle.
Because EPS is composed of 98 percent air, and thus extremely light for its volume, this material is not economical to collect and transport. In addition, EPS used to store and serve food is usually contaminated, and requires cleaning before it can be processed for recycling – a step that would incur additional costs. There are some jurisdictions in the United States with EPS recycling programs; however, these programs typically are limited to collection at drop-off centers (not curbside) and have strict limitations on the types of EPS accepted. For example, a program that accepts EPS food containers for recycling may not accept EPS packing “peanuts.”
Though Baltimore County does not accept EPS for recycling, there are still some ways to reduce the amount of this material that ends up in our landfill. Many packaging service stores, such as The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc., will accept EPS packing “peanuts” for reuse. In addition, EPS Industry Alliance in Crofton, Maryland will accept clean, white EPS packaging materials for reuse or recycling – visit epsindustry.org for details."