Styrofoam Collection Discontinued at 2018 Recycling Extravaganza

Beginning in 2018, St. Louis Earth Day’s Recycling Extravaganza – the largest collection event in the St. Louis Metro Area for hard-to-recycle items — will no longer accept any form of Styrofoam. By eliminating Styrofoam collection from their annual Recycling Extravaganza event, St. Louis Earth Day aims to reinforce a fundamental recycling message: Styrofoam is not recyclable and continued use of this hazardous material needs to stop.

While there have been steps taken to properly reprocess Styrofoam into new materials, locally it is merely being compressed and added to the local landfill. By continuing to provide a means to collect and haul Styrofoam, St. Louis Earth Day fears that community members receive the message that the use of Styrofoam is acceptable. The more the public understands about the dangers of Styrofoam, the less acceptable its use will be.

In 2016, St. Louis Earth Day teamed up with a Saint Louis University MBA Capstone project for a comprehensive study entitled, “The Real Cost of Styrofoam.” The research uncovered striking revelations about how Styrofoam affects humans, the environment, and its inability to be recycled into another material for reuse.

Polystyrene (Styrofoam) is extracted from petroleum oil. Thousands of small units of styrene, called monomers, link together to form large molecules of polystyrene by a process called polymerization. Expanded polystyrene starts as small spherical beads and when bonded together, can be used to form cups, coolers, packing material, etc. Several of these components are known to be human carcinogens, which when exposed to over long periods of time, have shown to be related to increased risks of cancers, such as leukemia.1

The study confirmed that small amounts of residual styrene, found in Styrofoam products, can leach into the food and drinks the containers hold. Leaching increases at higher temperatures, in fatty foods, and mostly from alcoholic drinks. If you take into consideration the following annual estimated costs: cancer risks associated with Styrofoam, greenhouse gas emissions from Styrofoam production, landfill operation due to Styrofoam trash, and coastal and highway clean-up costs of Styrofoam litter, it can be reasonably concluded that Styrofoam causes $7 billion dollars worth of negative impacts annually.2

Styrofoam is not recyclable and the process around condensing the material flat in order to take up less room in a landfill does not align with the overall mission of St. Louis Earth Day. “An additional consideration for our decision was the tremendous environmental cost of hauling and collecting the material at an event designed for recycling.” says Jen Myerscough, Executive Director of St. Louis Earth Day. “We want to send a very clear message about how this product negatively impacts people and our planet.”

Recycling Extravaganza will be held Sunday, April 8, 2018 in the parking lot of St. Louis Community College at Forest Park from 10 am to 2 pm. For a complete listing of items to be recycled at the St. Louis Earth Day’s 2018 Recycling Extravaganza, visit www.stlouisearthday.org. The list will be updated as collectors confirm their participation.

1, 2 Real Cost of Styrofoam (2016, November) Chandra, Manu; Kohn, Colin; Pawlitz, Jennifer; Powell, Grant, Saint Louis University MGT 6006-02: Strategy and Practice Experiential Learning Project.

MISSION: St. Louis Earth Day empowers you and your community to create and celebrate a greener St. Louis, every day, through Recycling On the Go, the Green Dining Alliance, Earth Day Action Grants, and our Festival.

St. Louis Earth Day is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Our Federal Tax ID number is 43-1931520.