Are you an avid recycler who stresses out every year when the frenzy of gift giving subsides and you find yourself knee deep in a pile of packaging materials? Well now you can use this helpful guide to properly recycle or dispose of your post-holiday mess!
Foam Polystyrene Blocks
Due to its low density, foam polystyrene (PS)- commonly referred to as Styrofoam- is currently not collected by curbside recyclers outside of a few municipalities. Luckily it is a valuable material so a number of small businesses and manufacturers will collect foam at public drop-offs and compress it into dense blocks to sell to recyclers. The following map lists all known foam PS drop-off locations in the US and Canada and more are added every week. Remember to look for the number 6 resin code to ensure that your foam is polystyrene.
Foam polystyrene is recycled into picture frames, surf boards, composite building material and more.
Foam Packing Peanuts
Foam Packing Peanuts are generally composed of the same material as foam polystyrene blocks, but they can be used over and over again which is even more efficient than recycling them into new products. It is common for shipping companies and mail couriers to accept foam peanuts for reuse. To find the location nearest to you visit the following map.
Foam packing peanuts are used over and over again in shipping.
Plastic Film and Bags
Plastic film and bags are often made of valuable Polyethylene (PE) plastic, the same material that your recyclable milk jug is make out of. Unfortunately, due to their flexible nature, they tend to clog up equipment at the sorting facilities so communities typically encourage residents not to recycle them in the curbside bin. Like with foam polystyrene, businesses saw an opportunity to capture the valuable material and sell it to recyclers, so over 18,000 grocery stores and small businesses in the US accept plastic film and bags for recycling. Enter your zip code at the following link to find the nearest drop-off.
Plastic Bags and Film are recycled into new bags, composite decking and more.
Broken Strings of Christmas Lights
Christmas lights are not entirely recyclable because they are composed of so many different materials, but you should absolutely not put them in your curbside bin. Similar to flexible plastic film, Christmas lights get wrapped around equipment at the sorting facility and can even force them to halt the sorting process to cut out the lights. Like most electronics, Christmas lights contain copper which is a very valuable metal sought after by recyclers. The following link was the best resource I could find for how best to recycle them.
Corrugated Cardboard is generally accepted in municipal curbside and drop-off recycling programs. Do your best to remove all tape and plastic from the cardboard before flattening it. Also make sure not to leave it out in the snow or rain because waterlogged paper causes problems for recyclers since it is sold by the pound.
Landfill or Reuse:
This is another material that is just not compatible with the current sorting technology and would likely end up wrapped around the equipment at the sorting facility. Instead of cutting off ribbons, tie them in easy-to-open knots and use the same ribbons every year.