Resilient Recycler: Behind the Scenes - #6 Polystyrene Recycling at Agilyx
#6 polystyrene plastics are your commonly called "Styrofoam" products from take-out containers to block foam. Unlike plastics like drink bottles and milk jugs that have recycling rates closer to 20%, only about 1% of polystyrene products produced get recycled (EPA 2013).
Why? There's a few reasons.
#6 plastics can be durable coffee cup lids or foam food trays or fluffy packing foam; therefore, these different types of #6 don't always melt down well together during the recycling process. Furthermore, curbside recycling does not collect polystyrene because it is hard to sort out from other plastics in our manual sorting process, and since it's so light, it often flies out of carts and ends up as litter.
Being light-weight and bulky, polystyrene materials are less economical for transporting than other recyclable material. However, certain places have equipment that can melt and compress the material into dense bricks that are better for shipping.
While you cannot recycle polystyrene in the mixed recycling, you can recycle white block foam for free at Central Transfer and Recycling Center (11034 NE 117th Ave, Vancouver). Some of our staff recently visited the transfer station and followed some block foam on its journey to Agilyx, a recycling company in Tigard, OR.
Let's start with that snazzy new TV you just won. You pull it out and set it up and now you have a huge cardboard box, plastic wrap, and blocks of foam. The plastic wrap cannot go in the curbside mixed recycling but can be recycled through the WRAP program at participating stores such as Safeway, Albertson's, and Fred Meyers. You can collapse the box down to recycle in your curbside cart if it will fit, otherwise take it to the Central Transfer Center with your foam and place them in the designated bins.
At the transfer station, we can only accept block foam that snaps apart when bent due to potential market changes. Therefore, we can only accept the clean, white pure block foam in Clark County since this market more sustainable.
In Clark County, the transfer station only accepts clean, dry white block foam that snaps apart when bent. The reason for this is due to potential market changes and to ensure there will always be somewhere for it to be processed.
The foam is trucked to the recycling facility, Agilyx ( 7904 SW Hunziker Street, Tigard, OR 97223). At Agilyx, the loose block foam is condensed into bricks of polystyrene. Agilyx recycles all #6 plastics, so if you are very devoted to recycling, you can save up your #6 plastics and deliver them to the drop-off at Agilyx's facility. Agilyx then processes the material into a styrene monomer that can be sold and used to create a variety of new styrene and polystyrene products.
If you are unsure about whether an item is recyclable in your curbside bin, find out first on recyclingA-Z.com. If you are unable to recycle it at drop-off locations, it should go in your garbage bin, NOT your recycling bin! Thank you for recycling right!