Styrofoam recycling options limited


DEAR SUN SPOTS: Thanks so much for the prompt answer to my questions regarding single-stream recycling (Jan. 17). Now I’m hoping you can seek out a bit more information.

I’ve been told that Hannaford will take plastic bags for recycling and the list includes everything from grocery bags to newspaper bags to bread bags. Can you please verify that our local stores are involved in this program? Such a program would certainly keep these bothersome plastic bags out of our landfills.

Also does Hannaford offer any recycling for the Styrofoam meat trays that are also currently being rejected by our local recycling center?

Here’s to a more environmentally conscious Maine! Thanks! — No Name via email

ANSWER: Sun Spots called Hannaford in Lewiston and Auburn and was told that you can put all your clean plastic bags or paper bags in their recycling. (Note the word “clean.”) They do not recycle Styrofoam.

Sun Spots has been frustrated by the inability to recycle Styrofoam for a long time, so she did some Web surfing to get some details on the difficulties.

According to, the term Styrofoam is actually a Dow Chemical Co. trademarked form of polystyrene foam insulation. It is also known as expanded polystrene (EPS) foam and usually coded as No. 6 plastic.

Like many plastics, Styrofoam is made from petroleum and the production process involves the use of a carcinogenic chemical known as benzene. Styrofoam persists in the environment, and is a threat to animals when ingested.

Styrofoam is actually mostly air, about 95 percent, which is part of the reason it is so difficult to recycle. It is also frequently contaminated by food waste — such as the meat trays you mentioned. Finally, its light weight makes it difficult to ship.

So, while many recycling centers take No. 6 plastic, they don’t take Styrofoam. When it is recycled, it is shredded and then heated so it will melt and can be reformed into new products.

There are a few recyclers, the Alliance for Form Packaging Recyclers has a mail-back option that allows anyone with small quantities of EPS access to recycling Styrofoam.

Sun Spots looked up those mailing options and found a couple in New England. The one in Connecticut (Tegrant Corp., 29 Park Road Putnam, CT 06260, 860-928-7795) said they would indeed accept Styrofoam mailed to the, as long as it is clean.

They do not accept food containers, such as meat trays or coffee cups.

The representative requested that you mark the outside of the mailing container to indicate it is recycling.

Sun Spots has spent considerable time on this topic and now officially gives up on meat trays. Alas, you will just have to continue to throw them away.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: The city of Auburn recycling truck (located at MMWAC) has been missing for over a month now. There are signs saying that it will be gone for “several weeks.”

Many of us (who are Minot residents who do not have the ability for curbside recycling pickup) would like to know when the truck is planning on being back. Our recycling is piling up, and we do not intend to just throw it in with the rest of the trash.

Looking back over the years through Sun Journal articles I see this problem has been going on at least since 2007. Yowsa! Thanks! — Whitney King-Buker, Minot

ANSWER: Sun Spots started with MMWAC, where she was told that the truck you refer to is owned by Auburn Public Works and is just parked at MMWAC.

She then called Auburn Public Works, where Tracy answered the phone. Tracy said they have three trucks and that they have had engines blow in two of the three, so they had to pull the one out of MMWAC while repairs were under way.

As you may know by now, the truck has been returned.

If and when the truck is removed again, you can take your recycling to the Public Works garage at 296 Gracelawn between 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Please take your recycling in a container, such as a cardboard box or garbage bag, that you can leave behind in case the truck isn’t there.

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