Q: How can I recycle extruded polystyrene—that horrible stuff that is used for packaging electronics and so many other items. I spent most of a Saturday researching the problem. The best I could come up with was to ship via freight to Maryland or New Jersey (We live in California.) —Pamela Faulk
A: We're coming up on the 42nd Earth Day, but yet here we are, still facing econundrums with packaging we never wanted in the first place! The good news is we have made some progress. While polystyrene (PS, recycling code #6) is still not accepted by most municipal curbside pickup programs, this toxic, flammable plastic can be kept out of landfills without our having to pay for shipping and incurring the related carbon emissions.
First, check with your local UPS store; most now accept and reuse PS “peanuts” and packing materials. Nearer still may be a municipal recycling drop-off center that takes PS in all its evil single-use incarnations, from Styrofoam coffee cups to clamshells to cutlery. Search “polystyrene” with your zip code at Earth911.com.
For how to recycle most anything else, check out our Recycling Handbook.
Happy Earth Day, and thank you all for your thoughtful questions and ideas year round!
Mindy Pennybacker is Whole Living’s eco expert. She regularly answers readers' green-living questions. She is also editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.