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What to do with that packing foam? South Side Flats company will accept it for recycling

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

After the holiday gifts and gadgets are extracted from boxes, it may be tempting to toss out the molded blocks of packing foam or peanuts that filled those boxes.

But the Pennsylvania Resources Council reminds people that its partnership with NOVA Chemicals' office in Moon and South Side-based Appliance Warehouse makes it possible to recycle expanded polystyrene foam — commonly called by the acronym EPS or trade name “Styrofoam.”

The foam otherwise would last for thousands of years in landfills because it isn't biodegradeable.

Polystyrene can be dropped off for recycling at Appliance Warehouse, in the 500 block of Bingham Street in South Side Flats, during business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. People should call ahead: 412-381-8800.

“There's a significant amount of EPS recycling,” said Ed Flynn, director of sales and engineering at Jeannette-based Huntington Foam, another manufacturer of polystyrene products. He said 100 percent of manufactured EPS can be recycled, “but most municipalities are not willing to spend the money to collect it.”

Philadelphia and Baltimore offer polystyrene recycling for materials taken to municipal recycling centers; neither offers curbside pickup for foam.

About 15 percent of polystyrene is recycled each year, including 93.7 million pounds in 2012, according to the EPS Industry Alliance, an industry group promoting recycling. The group's website, epspackaging.org, has a tool for mapping places that recycle the packaging, though Flynn noted that Huntingdon no longer accepts packaging at its corporate office.

The qualities that make polystyrene useful in packaging — inexpensive, lightweight and able to fill space in a box — make it uneconomical to pick up and transport for recycling. But in large enough quantities, the used material can be mixed with new polystyrene at facilities such as NOVA's Beaver Valley plant in Monaca.

Pennsylvania Resources Council accepts polystyrene for recycling at “hard-to-recycle” collection events, held several times a year around the region. During 2013 collections, it collected nearly three truckloads of foam, said spokeswoman Mary Beth Mueller. The 2014 schedule of collections isn't set.

Loose packing peanuts can be re-used, typically by bringing them to a mailing-supply store.

Recycled polystyrene can be used in products such as home insulation, plastic clothes hangers and picture frames. Flynn said the foam can end up in construction materials, including molds for concrete and “geofoam” used to stabilize and build up the ground under foundations or highway embankments.

Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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