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So…what if a community, a school, a restaurant or a supermarket wants to take advantage of plastic foodservice products…but also recycle more of its waste? Many valiant efforts over the past few decades have shown exactly what works and what doesn’t when it comes to recycling, and today there are numerous innovative plastic foodservice recycling programs across the country—some of which were initiated by school kids!
Here are some examples:
- Our nation’s second largest city, Los Angeles, is one of dozens of cities in California that collects polystyrene packaging in its curbside recycling program. The LA program accepts foodservice products, such as foam cups and take-out containers—residents simply clean and toss them in the blue bin with their other recyclables.
- Students in Torrance, California created a recycling program for their foam lunch trays and other plastic recyclables.
- The people of San Joaquin County, California, have found a way to "close the loop" on polystyrene.
- In New Mexico: “Mayfield High School pioneers styrofoam recycling”.
- In Illinois: “Arlington Hts. schools find way to break down Styrofoam lunch trays”.
- A National Park in Kentucky collects many plastic foam products for recycling, including foam cups, plates, take-out containers and egg cartons.
- Some grocery stores take back plastic foam egg cartons and other similar products, such as clean plastic foam meat trays and foodservice products, for recycling. (Check your local grocery store for the recycling bin...)
- A Portland, Oregon seafood company reports that it recycled 300,000 of foam packaging in one year.
So how do these recycling programs work? And what happens to the recycled plastic? Recycling this stuff is fairly simple...but not easy. The plastic products must be collected (usually clean) and delivered to a facility close enough to make the transport economical. (Because foam packaging is more than 90% air, most programs “densify” the products to get more on a truck.)
The plastic is then simply ground up, heated and recast into plastic pellets that then are sold to companies that make products such as “green building” construction materials, consumer goods and plastic packaging.
Check out these videos and websites that walk through the various aspects of this type of plastic recycling:
Want to look further? Check out these sites that help explain various types of plastic packaging recycling programs:
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