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Where to get rid of Styrofoam blocks in Portland

June 13th, 2013 · 4 Comments · Disposability, Packaging, Polystyrene, Recycling, Trash Disposal

I have to admit I’ve been feeling somewhat holy about going to the trouble of schlepping our huge Styrofoam blocks out to one of the only two places in Portland that will take them. I feel less holy after what I’ve just found out. …. which I’ll tell you about in a minute.

But first I want to emphasize that we still have to schlep — because presently there is no better option besides the One and Only better option, which is that this horrible stuff must not be manufactured in the first place. Meanwhile, this is the only acceptable thing we can do with it. Take it to Total Reclaim on Columbia Boulevard, or to the Foster Road location of another company, called Recology.

But the sobering part is: then what? What do they do with it? Well…  I suspected this but I’d never followed it through this far. Are you ready?

After they densify it, by melting it and squashing it down so that it takes up less space on the ships, they send it to places such as China and Japan where it’s used to make cheaper plastic materials such as: toothbrush handles, picture frames, and…. pen casings.

Pen casings? eeek! Toothbrush handles? Picture frames? How many of us have those items in our homes?

“Go away, Styrofoam. Take a slow boat to China.”

So when we buy those items, we’re actually buying styrofoam? I feel stuck in an impossible loop.

And when we eventually take those items to the recycling center, aren’t we then actually throwing the evil polystyrene into the rigid plastics recycling bins?

And what happens to it from there? Metro Recycling sends their rigid plastics to China. Is that bad? I suppose as long as we have this hideous stuff, we might as well get as many uses out of it as possible. Eventually it will end up in the landfills, but at least we’ll have used it as many times as possible.

But it looks like as the items are recycled into multiple incarnations and the plastics are combined with other plastics, the content of the cheaper plastics becomes less and less known. So how do they decide what recycling number to put on the end product? and is that important?

This is getting really complicated. My brain hurts. I have to stop now.

Next time I’ll address this nagging question: If China can “recycle” styrofoam, isn’t that a good thing? And, the dumber and more obvious question: Why can’t we do that here in the U.S.?

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Rachael D.

    My friend who met the 2 guys in Elkhart, IN (city with the most styrafoam – from all the RV parts that are shipped in) they were in experimental stages but it was looking promising!

    Here is a link to the citrus depot: The two guys were working with this same technology.

    It sounds excited, doesn’t it?

    • Kate Gawf

      Thanks, Rachel for following up on this and providing this link. So, everyone: Rachel was telling me that this town in Indiana had been found to be the city with the most styrofoam in the country! Right? So you’re saying that these guys found a way to deal with it by treating it with this citrus substance? That did what to it? I’m not finding a place on the website that addresses this specific issue. Can you elaborate? Yes, it does sound exciting (and I know you meant to write “excitING” rather than excited) but I remain skeptical. Hmmmm. We shall see…

  • Don Hawkins

    Kate, I am with Total Reclaim, (and M.R. Class 52) and I suspect that since you initially posted this you have likely discovered that our good friends at Far West Fibers also accept Styrofoam for recycle. FWF has multiple drop-off locations around the Metro area. Can’t have too many places to recycle that evil stuff. 😉

    • Kate Gawf

      wow THANKS Don! No, I didn’t know that. Don’t know how I missed that information, especially since I’ve been there tons of times! This will save me (and others) that long drive.

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