Styrofoam/Polystyrene Recycling

Styrofoam, also known as Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), is classified as a #6 plastic and is not economically viable as a recyclable material in most areas without significant subsidization.  However, Styrofoam packing peanuts can be reused again and again, whether for your own shipping needs or by passing them along to a packing/mailing store or offering them up on McLean County Freecycle.  But most other forms of Styrofoam including disposable cups, plates, clamshell packaging, and molded polystyrene inserts designed to protect electronics and other consumer items, have little potential for reuse and are not recyclable in Bloomington-Normal.

The best waste management strategy for Styrofoam/polystyrene is to avoid it in the first place.  For example, purchase electronics from companies such as Dell Computers, which avoids polystyrene packaging in favor of molded paperboard inserts that can be recycled. Avoid any usage of single-use disposable cups, plates, etc. whether they are Styrofoam, plastic, or paper, as most of these single-use items are not recyclable but rather must go into a landfill for perpetuity.  Use reusable cups, plates, utensils instead and bring them home to wash and reuse.

If you do find yourself with Styrofoam and wish to recycle it, there are mail-back recycling programs where you “subsidize” the transportation costs by paying for the cost of sending it back to a recycler.  Find locations and contact information at EPS Mail-Back Recycling.

NEW: Drop-off polystyrene recycling program in Urbana: 1505 East Main St Urbana, IL 61802, 217-384-1800  (Press Release)

  • Make sure foam has the #6 chasing arrows symbol on it
  • Rinse or wipe food off of foodservice containers
  • Remove straws, lids, tape or any other non-foam material
  • Deposit foam in a clear, sealed bag
  • Do not include foam-packaging peanuts (Call 800-828-2214 or visit for drop-off sites)

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