Since styrofoam can’t be recycled, people often question what they should do with it. Sure, many people choose to throw it away in the trash, but there are much better ways to dispose of styrofoam that is less harmful to the environment.

Here’s how you can dispose of styrofoam:

  • Sell your leftover styrofoam to distributors
  • Donate your styrofoam to a recycling center
  • Reuse your styrofoam instead of disposing of it

There are quite a few ways to get rid of styrofoam without just tossing it in the trash can. Let’s go into detail about how you can dispose of styrofoam and what makes it difficult to dispose of them. We will also cover why they aren’t regularly recycled, to begin with, and why they are bad for us and the environment. 

1. Sell Your Leftover Styrofoam to Distributors

Styrofoam may seem like a silly thing to sell since the trashcan is right there, but selling your leftover styrofoam to distributors can be a great way to ensure that it gets reused, and you can make a little money while you’re at it.

Companies like Plastics Market will buy your leftover styrofoam and resell it. Plastics Market is a database for companies all over the country that buy and sell recyclable materials like empty bottles and styrofoam. Their website allows you to find companies close by that allow you to drop off your old styrofoam.

Be careful, though; not every company on the website accepts styrofoam, so make sure you read carefully before showing up.

There isn’t much money to be made selling your extra styrofoam unless you have a lot of it. It is definitely wise to window-shop prices for local companies that will buy it from you. Prices vary highly depending on the business and location. So, don’t be afraid to look around for the best deal.

Be careful when choosing a location to sell your styrofoam. Traveling a good distance to find a company that will buy it from you may end up costing you money. So, be sure to check the price and ensure that the trip is worth it. If it’s not worth the money, then consider donating instead.

2. Donate Your Styrofoam to a Recycling Center

If selling isn’t a reasonable option for you or just isn’t worth the money, then donating your styrofoam is another great option. There are a few websites that can help you find a place to donate styrofoam near you. The problem is that not every recycling center is going to accept styrofoam.

One excellent resource for finding recycling centers is Earth 911. All you need to do is type in the material you want to recycle and your zip code; then, Earth 911 will find companies and recycling centers near you that accept donations.

Always make sure that you are double-checking that the company you choose actually accepts styrofoam. Because it is labeled as a #6 plastic recyclable, it may seem like styrofoam is accepted there, but that’s not necessarily the case. If the website doesn’t specify whether or not the company accepts it, you should call ahead before making the trip.

Not all companies accept every type of styrofoam. For example, styrofoam that holds food or beverage can’t be recycled because of contamination. There is no way to thoroughly sterilize styrofoam because it breaks down when introduced to extreme heat. So, styrofoam that has come in contact with food needs to just be thrown away.

Donating can be a great way to ensure your styrofoam doesn’t end up stuck in a landfill for years to come. So, find a place to donate near you, and make sure they accept styrofoam before making the trip.

3. Reuse Your Styrofoam Instead of Disposing of It

Though it’s not exactly a disposal method, reusing styrofoam can keep it from going to waste in a landfill and can help save you money along the way. There are several ways to reuse your styrofoam, but make sure that you don’t reuse styrofoam that contains food or beverage because of contamination.

Use Styrofoam for Shipping

There are different types of styrofoam, but many different types can be cut up and made into packing supplies. Sending packages can get expensive, and having your own packing material can save you time and money when sending out those packages.

So, if you have styrofoam around, then you have lots of material to keep your packages safe without spending extra money.

Use Styrofoam as a Placeholder for Your Potted Plants

If you have any plants that are a little too small for their pot, then you could spend a lot of money on extra dirt. Instead, why not use styrofoam to take up some of that space along the side and bottom of the pot. As your plant grows, you can remove some pieces if necessary.

Styrofoam Can Help Dry Your Dishes

Styrofoam is water-resistant, so it makes a great dish dryer. Make sure you clean it first, then feel free to let it hold your dishes until they dry. This idea also works great for food that needs to dry, like fruit or vegetables. Just make sure you keep it clean if you want to use it for dishes or food.

Use Styrofoam for Art Projects

Whether it’s your own project or your kid’s science experiment, styrofoam is a great resource to use. Avoid buying new material by reusing material that you already have available.

Styrofoam makes a great art companion because it’s not heavy. You can use a lot of it or combine it with other materials without worrying about the weight of your project. This idea is especially handy for children who may have to carry their projects to school.

Why Isn’t Styrofoam Regularly Recycled?

There are many recycling companies that do not recycle styrofoam, and it leaves a lot of people curious as to why. It may seem strange, but it has to do with its weight.

Styrofoam isn’t regularly recycled because it doesn’t weigh a lot, and companies make a profit per pound for each material that is recycled. For many companies, it is more of an inconvenience to recycle it rather than a profit. So, many companies just don’t bother.

Companies Recycle for a Profit

It may not seem obvious, but companies receive a profit from recycling materials. Like many other things, recyclable materials are judged based on the amount of profit they can bring. Unfortunately for styrofoam, materials that don’t have much weight to them don’t turn much of a profit because the price is calculated per pound of material.

Breaking down the cost of transporting that material, handling the material, and processing the material proves that it is costly to recycle anything. Companies have found that because of those factors, styrofoam is not profitable to recycle.

For many people, this is a difficult concept to accept because recycling styrofoam would help our planet quite a bit. Without profit to be made, many companies have moved on from it and moved toward materials that are easier to profit from.

Some Companies Still Recycle Styrofoam

Thankfully, there are still companies out there that will recycle styrofoam even though there is little money to be made doing so. After all, with so few companies recycling styrofoam, it is easier for them to make a profit.

Making a profit from recycling styrofoam is much more feasible if companies that come in contact with it often can process it on site. For example, if a furniture store had the ability to process their styrofoam, they would make a much better profit because they aren’t paying for transportation and don’t have to worry about spending money to move it anywhere.

So, this is why a few companies still recycle styrofoam. There is a profit to be made if you have a large quantity and can process it on location.

Why Is Styrofoam Bad for Us and the Environment?

We often hear that we need to try not to use styrofoam or make sure it is properly recycled, but many of us probably don’t know why. Styrofoam is not just bad for the environment, but it is also bad for us.

Styrofoam is bad for us and the environment for many reasons:

  • Styrofoam takes so long to decompose.
  • A lot of styrofoam ends up in oceans, putting marine life at risk.
  • Styrofoam can be toxic to humans.

Let’s talk a little more in-depth about the negative effects styrofoam has on us.

Styrofoam Takes So Long to Decompose

It is estimated that styrofoam takes about 500 years to decompose. So, in the meantime, it just sits in landfills unless we do something else with it. Styrofoam just sitting in landfills may not seem like the worst thing, but it certainly affects our planet.

Styrofoam products are made with petroleum which means that they are a very heavy air polluter. So, while those containers are sitting around landfills, they are also polluting the air. However, that’s not the only harm that styrofoam causes.

Styrofoam is very light, meaning that it can travel easily with the smallest gust of wind. So, not only are we filling landfills with styrofoam, but it can be found all over the world. Since it’s not going to decompose for quite some time, we don’t have a way to properly get rid of it without recycling.

Styrofoam Ends Up in Oceans, Putting Marine Life at Risk

Styrofoam is lightweight and therefore easy to lose in just a little bit of wind. This means that it is likely to blow away from trash cans or landfills. So, much of the styrofoam we throw away ends up in places we didn’t put it. Unfortunately, they often end up in our oceans.

Styrofoam is one of the most common pieces of trash found in our oceans. Because of its light weight, styrofoam tends to float on water. So, some fish will mistake it for food and consume it, which is deadly for fish and seabirds, too. This is why recycling styrofoam properly is vital for the protection of our marine animals.

Not only is styrofoam found so commonly in our oceans, but it also washes up on beaches frequently. So, land and sea animals are both at risk of consuming styrofoam and getting sick or dying.

It doesn’t help that a lot of trash is lost at beaches due to high wind and people consistently eating outside. So, next time you’re at the beach, be mindful of your trash and where it ends up at the end of the day because you could be putting animals at risk.

Styrofoam Can Be Toxic to Humans

Styrofoam is handy for drinks and food when you want something quick and on the go, but just because it is cleared by the FDA doesn’t make it completely safe. Styrofoam, when consumed, attacks the central nervous system.

So, you may be thinking that the obvious answer is just to not eat styrofoam, but it’s not that simple. Often hot food or beverages can absorb some of the styrofoam into its contents, which means that when you drink that hot coffee from a styrofoam cup, there is a good chance you are ingesting some.

This also covers hot food and microwaving food as well. Styrofoam can sneak its way into your system without you realizing it. So, it’s important to be careful about the temperature of the food and drink you’re consuming with styrofoam.

There haven’t been many studies regarding the long-term effects of consuming styrofoam, but considering that it is plastic made from petroleum, we know it isn’t good for us.


In closing, selling, donating, and reusing styrofoam are three effective ways to dispose of it while ensuring that it doesn’t end up in a landfill. Whichever method of disposal you choose, you will be helping the environment by ensuring it doesn’t sit around for years.

So, sell, donate, or reuse your styrofoam and help preserve our planet.

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