Polystyrene

Polystyrene FoamHow many times this week have you used foam containers and packaging made of polystyrene?

From your morning coffee or snack, to new home and office supplies protected by foam polystyrene to picking up a bakery tray of goodies on the way home from work…polystyrene (PS) foam containers and packaging enter our lives in many ways every single day, and with good reason!

It can be a great packaging choice because it’s lightweight, low cost, strong, insulating, it’s also sanitary and very recyclable. PS keeps products safe and clean and cost-effectively maintains preferred temperatures.

Polystyrene is Recyclable!

Polystyrene is 100% recyclable and about 35% of Canadian communities accept PS food and in their recycling programs and some others offer drop-off locations for clean polystyrene. This is lower than other materials and offers opportunities for improvement. The problem is that PS foam is bulky – filled with 90% air, so it’s expensive to collect from households and ship to processors.

Increasingly communities are using systems to ‘densify’ the foam – pushing out the air– to help make shipping more cost-effective. In some systems a densified load of polystyrene can carry up to 20 tonnes of plastic where it would have carried less than one tonne of loose, bulky material.  

CPIA’s polystyrene foam recycling video

Find options to recycle PS in your community  

And when it's recycled...

Recycled PS Foam

What is CPIA Doing?

CPIA works with municipalities to increase PS recycling, in depot collection programs and in retailer take-back operations. We also conduct annual studies to track recycling rates and look for new opportunities to provide resources to help increase polystyrene recovery.

More Information 

Fast Facts

  • One in three Canadians have access to recycling PS; this is largely in Ontario, New Brunswick, and BC. We’re working to grow these opportunities.
  • PS is 100% recyclable and comes back to life in items like picture frames, coat hangers, office supplies, construction products and more, using less energy to produce these new materials.
  • On average, PS takes up less than 1% landfill space.
  • Find out about recycling PS: Recycling Polystyrene and Expanded Polystyrene (Moore Recycling Associates, 2014)

For more information: see Recycling Resources

What's Happening in Communities Across Canada