Expanded & Extruded polystyrene recycling program
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign now recycles extruded polystyrene, more commonly known by its brand name Styrofoam and expanded polystyrene. By recycling this bulky material, we can reduce the volume of waste sent from campus — waste that will never biodegrade — to landfills and avoid the harmful environmental impacts of that practice.
The Styrecycle program can help you do your part to make the Urbana-Champaign campus a clean and green place to work and study. We thank you for your participation!
Pounds of EPS recycled to date:
Community partnerships to benefit all.
Styrofoam is notoriously hard to recycle — not because it is difficult to process into new products, but because Styrofoam is designed to weigh next-to-nothing. This is great when you want to protect items without increasing shipping costs, but economically upside-down when the Styrofoam itself is the material being shipped. With a large volume and low density, a semi-load of Styrofoam fetches a low price — often less than the cost for the fuel and driver’s pay.
Our solution is to get more of the commodity into the truck to make the trip more profitable. In partnership with local recycler Community Resource Inc. (CRI), iSEE collects expanded and extruded polystyrene (EPS) waste from campus laboratories, processes it into dense blocks of plastic, and ships it to a plant which will turn it into new products. All profits from the sale of dense EPS are retained by CRI in compensation for housing and operating the Styrofoam densifying equipment.
Getting Started is Easy!
>> Join the program
You provide the space; we provide the collection bins and signage.
1. Determine a collection point for EPS in your building. You’ll need a clear space at least 4 feet wide and 4 feet deep for either a wireframe bin or fiber drum. Make sure it is easily accessible to building occupants and our collection team.
2. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a collection bin in your building. Please use subject line “Bin Request (your building name).”
3. We’ll drop off a bin, hang up posters, and then you’re all set!
>> Notify & Pickup
Let us know when your bin is nearing full. There are two ways to request a pickup from our student volunteers:
- Call or text us at 818-639-2465
- Email email@example.com with the subject line “Pickup Request (your building name)”
Frequently Asked Questions
What items are accepted?
- EPS package cushioning
- Clean, empty Styrofoam coolers
- EPS packing peanuts
- Some #6 materials
NOTE: please remove all stickers and tape from EPS items!
We DO NOT accept:
- Containers contaminated with food/drink
- Non EPS materials (paper, cans, etc)
- Corn starch packing peanuts (corn starch will dissolve in water)
My building doesn't have space for its own bin. Can I still recycle EPS?
Yes! If you produce a small amount of EPS waste regularly, or have a one-time large amount, you may drop it off at a collection point in a building near you. Use our custom Google map to find a building near you with a collection bin and take your items to their drop-off location.
Can I bring in my own items from home to recycle?
Who funds this program?
In 2014, the University of Wisconsin-Madison reached out to the Urbana-Champaign campus about the possibility of beginning an expanded polystyrene (EPS) recycling program here. Students there had successfully piloted a campus program called UW Boxable through a U.S. EPA grant. With a renewal of that grant came a mandate to help start programs at other Universities, and so Illinois’ Styrecycle was born. Initial funds from Wisconsin have allowed Styrecycle to purchase wire cages and fiber drums for collecting EPS in campus buildings.
The densifier machine that grinds and extrudes Styrofoam as a compact tube ready for shipping to a Chicago-area recycler was purchased with a $32,500 grant from the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) in Fall 2014.
Local recycler Community Resource, Inc. takes responsibility for costs of transporting Styrofoam from campus to their facility, operating the densifier, and shipping dense styrofoam to the recycler in exchange for all proceeds from the sale of the EPS commodity.
Are we making money from recycling our Styrofoam?
No. Our local program partner Community Resource, Inc. retains all revenue from the sale of Styrofoam to a Chicago-area recycler in exchange for their service of housing and operating the campus-owned EPS densifier machine that makes recycling Styrofoam possible.
Styrecycle wasn’t founded with revenue generation in mind. In the words of Ben McCall, former iSEE Assistant Director for Campus Sustainability:
“Styrecycle is part of a larger effort to improve our recycling. We do a pretty good job of recycling on our campus, but we don’t yet do an outstanding job of recycling, and this is one part of an overall portfolio of improving our waste diversion on campus.
“The bigger impact of this type of program is really in what it says about our campus and what is says to our student body and the people who work here about the ethos of sustainability. We are really trying everything that we can to reduce our impact on the environment and this may be a small step but it’s a step that we can take as a campus to take a stream that was going to the landfill and turn that back into a value added resource for the economy.”
APRIL 19, 2016 — Expanded polystyrene — more commonly known by its...