I was asked the other day if we accept meat trays for recycling. Many have the recycling symbol on them with a number six. My answer was ‘No’.
A suggestion on our ‘Flin Flon Recycling’ facebook page helped me decide to look for more information. Here is what I found.
The technical name for number six plastic is polystyrene (PS). Meat trays and many other things are made from ‘extruded polystyrene’ or polystyrene foam. Most of us call it Styrofoam which is actually a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company for extruded polystyrene used for thermal insulation and craft applications.
Polystyrene foam has many uses because it is strong, lightweight, cheap, and sanitary to use.
According to the Canadian Plastic Industry Association’s web page, polystyrene foam is very recyclable. However, only about 35% of recycling programs in Canada accepts it.
This is because it is 90% air. It takes up a lot of space and is very light. It requires special machines to compact or ‘densify’ it enough to make shipping feasible.
The Recycling Centre gets a lot of polystyrene foam. The biggest pieces are usually found in cardboard boxes where it protected whatever came in the box. It has to be removed before the cardboard is baled which takes time and can be challenging, as it may be stuck tightly in the box.
Foam cups, meat trays, egg cartons, and other items often found with other recyclables we receive. They are removed and put in the garbage.
If the company we ship to in Winnipeg finds a market for number six plastic containers we will accept them.
It is highly unlikely however, that we will ever recycle PS foam.