The success of a foam recycling initiative in Highland Park, IL has spurred the possibility of curbside foam collection for residents of the community. Within one year of kicking off the foam waste drop-off program, more than 4,417 pounds of polystyrene foam have been collected. Polystyrene foam is commonly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, and makes up many single-use foodservice items and packaging material.
The initial foam collection drop-off was sponsored by the Solid Waste Agency, as well as Dart Container Corporation and Pactiv LLC. This initiative has been available since 2011, and allows area residents to drop off their polystyrene food containers and cups at a designated site. The foam is then collected, processed and purchased by manufacturers who use it to make new items, such as picture frames or crown molding. Executive director of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, Walter Willis, comments that while the current recycling program has been deemed a success, the final goal for a program like this is to accomplish curbside collection of foam and other recyclables within the community.
City council member Steven Mandel, who was influential in implementing the initial program, commented that “…this program has definitely ushered in a new way on how we approach our sustainable future in Highland Park.” Mandel credits individuals making the choice to recycle as the reason they have been able to keep more than four semitrailers of foam waste out of landfills.
The Highland Park community is not alone in this effort to address foam recycling initiatives. Dart has also implemented other programs to continually promote the importance of polystyrene recycling to consumers and businesses alike. The CARE (Cups Are REcyclable) and Recycla-Pak programs, for example, make it easy for any organization to recycle single-use foam cups. The CARE program provides users with the densifying device to compress the organization’s foam waste, which is then collected by participating manufacturers to be made into new products.