With the holiday season over, the surplus of polystyrene foam or “Styrofoam” (a trademark of the Dow Chemical Company) that once surrounded holiday gifts and deliveries for safekeeping is now flooding our homes. Few households are aware, however, that polystyrene foam is recyclable and reusable. In fact, only around 10-12% of foam packaging is recycled, despite the various options for recycling polystyrene foam.

There are copious drop-off facilities all over the country where consumers can take their used polystyrene foam for reprocessing. The expanded polystyrene industry even has an interactive search engine where you can find the recycling facility closest to your home.

We use all of this polystyrene because it is so lightweight and easy to ship without spending a lot of money on shipping–so try mailing your extra foam packaging to a recycling facility. Polystyrene foam has unique mail-back programs for consumers’ convenience, where the industry repurposes the foam into durable goods, like CD cases, hangers and architectural molding.

Arguably the most commonly encountered form of polystyrene foam–packaging peanuts–is so abundant that there are organizations that will recycle Styrofoam packaging material without any sort of reprocessing. Local businesses in particular happily accept them for their own reuse, so checking with your favorite retailers can help support businesses and get rid of extra polystyrene in your home (check Postal Annex for retailers who may accept them). Lastly, the Plastic Loose Fill Council has a national “Peanut Hotline” which offers referrals to the closest locations who will repurpose your peanuts. (1-800-828-2214).