What Are the Benefits of Recycling Styrofoam?


Quick Answer

The benefits of recycling Styrofoam include reduced pollution, more effective use of landfill space and decreased risk to fish and other marine life. Recycling Styrofoam also eliminates the toxic gases created when the material is burned improperly. Manufacturing Styrofoam requires petroleum, and recycling alleviates demand for this non-renewable resource.

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Full Answer

Styrofoam is also known as polystyrene and is one of the most common forms of plastic. Polystyrene is a versatile material, but effective recycling methods are not always easy to employ. The process involves feeding polystyrene foam through a shredding machine and then subjecting the shredded material to heat and pressure until it begins to melt. Melted foam is then reconstituted. Polystyrene's lightness makes collection difficult and transport of the material may also be problematic due to its bulk.

Polystyrene is rarely recycled locally, and materials are usually shipped to a centralized plant, further increasing recycling costs. Even though the heat used for the recycling process sterilizes materials, recycled polystyrene can cause health concerns when it comes into contact with foods. Recycled polystyrene is typically used to create packing and similar materials. When burned in an incinerator polystyrene produces only carbon dioxide and water vapor making it an ideal fuel for waste-to-energy problems that use capture heat for a variety of useful purposes.

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