Expanded polystyrene foam (aka Styrofoam) includes meat trays, coffee cups and foam packaging and is identified by the number 6 in the plastic idenification code on the bottom of the container.
Polystyrene contaminates recyclable materials as it breaks up into many small pieces when placed in the recycling bin. Due to its light weight, it also gets caught up in the paper/cardboard stream, causing contamination.
Polystyrene is also a very problematic litter item as it is light weight, breaks up easily and is readily dispersed by the wind and in water. It can be mistaken for food by seabirds and animals which can prove fatal. It also takes more than 500 years to degrade, so will remain in the environment for a very long time.
Which bin? Please place polystyrene foam into the general waste to landfill bin.
5 ways to Avoid or Reduce using Polystyrene:
1) Avoid meat, fruit and vegetables packaged on foam trays:
Purchase your meat from the butcher or choose meat that is packaged with a rigid plastic tray instead. Rigid plastic trays can then be rinsed and recycled.
Most fruit and vegetables really don’t need to be packaged on a tray and wrapped in plastic. This just creates unnecessary waste! Choose loose, seasonal fruit and vegetables and use a re-usable produce bag such as Rethink fresh produce bags, Onya Reusable Mesh Produce Bags or ChicoBag. You can also re-use the plastic barrier bags provided at the shop over and over again.
2) Choose re-usable instead of disposable:
Don’t buy disposable polystyrene cups, plates or bowls for parties, instead use re-usable dishware when you can or choose ecofriendly alternatives made from paper, bamboo or compostable corn starch (PLA) when you can’t. .
Purchase a re-useable coffee cup such as a KeepCup or Joco Coffee Cup. Some café’s offer a discount for using your own cup.
3) Avoid using polystyrene takeaway containers:
Before asking for takeaway check that the containers provided aren’t polystyrene. If so, ask the restaurant if they can use compostable or recyclable containers instead, or bring your own re-usable glass or stainless steel container.
4) Avoid purchasing items with polystyrene packaging:
When purchasing home appliances, ask if the items are packaged in moulded polystyrene or packing peanuts. If so, ask if there are alternative brands that use moulded cardboard instead, as the cardboard can be recycled. If there isn’t an alternative, you can ask the store to take back the polystyrene packaging for recycling as they may recycle it through specialised polystyrene recycler (usually only available for commercial quantities and not for individual households).
5) Purchase products made from recycled or natural fibres:
Polystyrene is also found in insulation and carpet underlay. If you are building or renovating your home purchase products that are made from recycled or natural fibres eg. some insulation is made from recycled paper pulp.