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Styrofoam recycling is a hit in Kalamazoo

White polystyrene egg cartons on a shelf at a store are seen close-up.
Jeff Chiu/AP
Foam egg cartons at a market in San Francisco in 2016. The city has since banned polystyrene packaging.

Many recycling programs do not accept polystyrene. But over the last year, the City of Kalamazoo has piloted a drop-off program for items made of the plastic better known by the brand name Styrofoam.

It’s been popular, according to Rick Welch, a member of the nonprofit environmental group Hope for Creation, which co-organized the pilot. Welch said at each collection, the Styrofoam goes in a 53-foot-long trailer.

“We fill it all the way to the ceiling, pretty much,” he said.

The last drop-off of the initial program is Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm, but an extra one has been scheduled for April 30.

“The city is going to figure out where we are going to go from there,” said Sharon Dever, a member of the city’s Environmental Concerns Committee.

Make sure it breaks

Residents can drop off clean, used Styrofoam, preferably in clear plastic bags. Welch says the Styrofoam will ideally have the number six on it. However, he added that “a lot of packaging does not have a number on it.”

“So our rule of thumb, and this is very rudimentary, is that if you try to bend it and it breaks, that is what we want. If you try to bend it and it bends, we do not want it,” he explained.

Packing peanuts and flame-retardant-treated Styrofoam are also not accepted.

Welch said the polystyrene collected at the drop-offs is picked up by the Dart Container Corporation.

“They take it back to their plant in Mason, regrind it, and make picture frames and baseboard molding out of it. So, they have a defined product that they make with that material, so it takes it out of the landfill,” he said.