The Growing Issue of Styrofoam Waste in BC

Is Styrofoam recyclable? Yes, but the options are limited and the process can be confusing, requiring careful cleaning and proper disposal at designated recycling facilities.

Did you know each year, Metro Vancouver faces the daunting challenge of managing approximately 10,500 tons of Styrofoam waste. Before 2019, a mere 21% of this Styrofoam was recycled, leaving the vast majority to clutter landfills. Recognizing the environmental impact, Metro Vancouver enacted a ban on Styrofoam landfilling in 2018. To further discourage improper disposal, a surcharge on Styrofoam loads at transfer stations was introduced last year, prompting both businesses and residents to seek more sustainable alternatives.

Where to Recycle Styrofoam in BC?

Regional Recycling Nanaimo Locations

Regional Recycling Nanaimo locations are integral to the Recycle BC program, accepting residential quantities of Styrofoam for recycling. These recycling depots provide a convenient option for residents to responsibly dispose of their foam packaging, including items such as protective packaging for appliances, takeout containers, and meat trays. By participating in the Recycle BC program, Regional Recycling Nanaimo helps divert significant amounts of Styrofoam from landfills, contributing to a more sustainable waste management system. Residents are encouraged to check with the specific Nanaimo locations for any restrictions or additional guidelines to ensure their Styrofoam is accepted for recycling.

Recycle BC Depots

Residents can recycle Styrofoam for free at Recycle BC depots. These depots accept foam packaging, including protective packaging for appliances, takeout containers, and meat trays. For a comprehensive list of accepted items and depot locations, visit the Recycle BC website or use RCBC’s Recyclepedia. It’s important to note that this program is limited to residential Styrofoam; commercial and industrial Styrofoam is not accepted.

London Drugs

London Drugs locations also accept some types of foam packaging for recycling. Check with your local store for details.

Styrofoam Recycling Is NOT ACCEPTED AT:

Curbside / Blue Bin Recycling
Styrofoam should not be placed in curbside or multi-family collection containers as it breaks and crumbles easily during collection. Styrofoam containers can’t be placed in blue bins at home.

Regional Recycling (Lower Mainland Locations)
Lower Mainland locations have opted out of the Recycle BC program and no longer accept Styrofoam or other forms of packaging.

Understanding Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is a brand name for polystyrene, a plastic material trademarked by the Dow Chemical Company. Polystyrene comes in two forms: foamed and non-foamed. The foamed variety is commonly used for packing electronics, meat trays, and insulation, while the non-foamed form is found in disposable cutlery, CD and DVD cases, and other hard plastic products. Polystyrene is flammable and contains numerous harmful chemicals, making it difficult to recycle or reuse.

How to upcycle Styrofoam?

Planter Pots:
Crumbled polystyrene foam can be used at the bottom of planter pots to enhance drainage.

Save chunks of Styrofoam for use as packing material when shipping items.

Art Projects:
Schools or craft shops might accept Styrofoam for various art projects.

Courier Companies:
Some courier companies will take back Styrofoam packing chips for reuse.

Preparation for Recycling Styrofoam

Before recycling Styrofoam, it’s crucial to ensure that the material is clean and free of any contaminants. This means removing all food residue, stickers, and tape from the Styrofoam items. Clean Styrofoam is essential for the recycling process because contamination can hinder the recycling operations and reduce the quality of the recycled material. By thoroughly cleaning and preparing your Styrofoam, you contribute to a more efficient recycling system and help maintain the integrity of the recycled products. Taking these steps not only supports environmental sustainability but also aligns with the guidelines set by recycling facilities, ensuring that your efforts to recycle are effective and impactful.

How is Styrofoam recycled?

Styrofoam recycling involves a multi-step process where it is first compacted and then shredded into smaller pieces. These pieces are then melted and extruded into solid blocks or pellets that can be used to manufacture new products.

Reasons to Recycle Styrofoam?

Styrofoam does not break down naturally, contributing to long-term landfill waste.

Wildlife Harm:
Styrofoam litter in public places can be harmful to wildlife.

Lightweight Nature:
Being lightweight, Styrofoam is easily carried by wind or water, spreading pollution.

Chemical Leaching:
Styrene, a chemical component of Styrofoam, can leach into the food stored in Styrofoam containers.