Polystyrene foam plates for sale on a shelf in a store

Polystyrene Foam or Styrofoam

Most people know that polystyrene foam is very difficult to recycle. While it is more commonly called Styrofoam, that is actually the brand name of a specific foam product, and the more accurate term for this damaging waste is polystyrene foam. But there are ways to avoid polystyrene foam with some creative thinking.

You can listen to my original podcast episode on polystyrene from July 2020 in this YouTube video:

How to Avoid Polystyrene

Bring your own container when purchasing take-out (which is more difficult during social distancing and curbside pick-up, so check with your restaurant).

Patronize restaurants who avoid polystyrene.

If you are Durham, North Carolina, participate in the Green-to-Go program and if not, get inspired to start a similar program in your community by listening to this podcast interview about Green-to-Go. Learn more about how Green-to-Go was made in this blog post by the Sullivan Foundation.


If you are a company which ships products and you need packaging solutions similar to polystyrene, check out MycoBond – an alternative made from mushrooms.

If you get medical supplies or a meat subscription shipped to you in polystyrene coolers, ask your company to take them back and reuse them. Some do.

People Who Creatively Recycle Polystyrene

Home for Foam map – look for a polystyrene recycler near you (USA)

Ashton Cofer and his team did a TED Talk on converting polystyrene into activated carbon for water filters

Scientists find a type of beetle larvae convert polystyrene to carbon dioxide

Sustainable Surf makes surfboards from recycled polystyrene in California. If you live there, check to see if your local surf shop will take polystyrene electronics packaging for the program called Waste to Waves.

If you are looking for body boards made from recycled polystyrene, check with Pride Body Boards.

If you are purchasing crown molding or photo frames, check for products made from recycled polystyrene. American Pro Decor at Home Depot is one option for crown molding. Companies that make frames from recycled polystyrene include Vista Frames and Mainline Mouldings.

Artists Who Work with Polystyrene Foam

Joyce Majiski – carving a whale skeleton from salvaged polystyrene foam

Flora and Fauna International put out this report about reducing marine debris caused by polystyrene buoys, pontoons and floats.

Eveline Kolijn – carves to-go clamshell containers and other polystyrene with intricate designs


Ang Li – makes polystyrene bales as part of her exploration of the environmental impacts of building materials and what is valued in the recycling industry


Michael Salter – Styrobots – giant robots from polystyrene in electronics packaging


Creative Reuse Projects with Polystyrene Foam

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