June 2016 — Students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are advocating for sustainability and waste reduction, thanks to their new foam recycling program, Styrecycle. The new program, completely student-pioneered, is sponsored by the U of I’s Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment (iSEE), and allows students to drop-off their expanded polystyrene foam in a variety of drop-off locations found on campus. Often mistakenly referred to as “Styrofoam®” a trade name for Dow Chemical foam insulation board, examples of common foam include foam cups, take-out containers, and packaging foam used to protect electronics such as TVs during shipping. A list of current campus (foam #6) recycling locations can be found here.
“There are many recycling stations in Champaign and Urbana and several good programs for recycling. On campus, there are many ways to recycle for office paper, and in the residential halls, places to recycle glass, bottles, and other materials are clearly marked,” said Marco Tjioe, an intern with Styrecycle. “We also have a great re-use program on campus in the YMCA Dump and Run. So there are many programs and locations for recycling when people look them up and seek them out.”
Tjioe and other student interns hope to see Styrecycle expand; and that recycling foam will become a future norm for not just the university, but also for the community of Urbana-Champaign. Many other college campuses across the U.S. have added foam recycling programs to their campus, including University of Wisconsin, Washington University, and University of Colorado.
According to an article from Smile Politely, through the support of grants, iSEE was able to purchase a Styrofoam densifier. The foam recycling equipment is housed at Community Resource, Inc. (CRI), where the recycling company operates the densifer for free in exchange for the proceeds from the sale of densified foam. One company in Chicago who frequently purchases the foam from CRI transforms the material into surfboards.
“If it turns out that it’s not economically ideal, it’s not going to harm anyone,” said CRI owner, Matthew Snyder. “I started out recycling as an environmentalist, and it turned me into a business guy. (I’m motivated) by a possible environmental benefit, a possible economic benefit, and frankly some curiosity about how it will work out.”
The process of recycling foam is seamless, and can leverage a city’s existing curbside recycling infrastructure. Most foam #6 products can be identified by the resin identification code stamped on the material. From food service products’ keeping your food and drink at the proper temperature, to foam packaging protecting your consumer goods during shipping, foam provides an immense amount of benefits. The fact that EPS provides so many benefits makes it even more important for residents to choose to recycle the material.
If you are interested in learning how you can start a foam recycling program on your campus, visit http://www.homeforfoam.com/schools and contact your school administrators.
Styrecycle: A New Effort to Reduce Waste on the Illinois Campus. (2016, April 19). In iSEE.
Retrieved June 28, 2016, from http://sustainability.illinois.edu/styrecycle-a-new-effort-to-
Pulsifer, R. (2016, June 17). Styrecycle expands sustainability. In Smile Politely. Retrieved June 28, 2016,