BARRY ASKED: I received a large package at home and after unpacking I was unsure do with all the materials. There was the cardboard box, the tape and lots of “popcorn” inside, tissue paper and a few plastic inserts to keep things in place. Can you recycle all of this stuff from this packaging?
WE FOUND THE ANSWER: When faced with a variety of materials in a package, the first thing you should always do is sort it out piece by piece. So, let’s take your cardboard, for example. This material is easily recyclable in most curbside programs (you can find your local recycling location for cardboard here). Just remember to remove all the adhesives before tossing in the bin. Unfortunately, that tape wrapped around your cardboard box is not recyclable and will have to be tossed.
Now, the packaging peanuts are a little trickier. These foam puffs are made from plastic #6, also called expanded polystyrene, and many curbside programs do not accept this type of plastic. The reason comes down to transportation issues to its light weight and high contamination rate.
After the material is placed in a commingled bin, scooped up on a recycling truck and transported to a facility, it becomes contaminated with dirt and other materials. Because most curbside programs do not wash the material, recyclers have a hard time with it.
But that doesn’t mean you have to throw away those peanuts. There are several community programs that will recycle the material. A simple search on Earth911.com will pull up recyclers in your specific area. If there are no programs that fit your specific needs or are near your location, AFPR offers a mail-in program for consumers. Average shipping fees range from $1.50 to $9, based on the total packaging weight and volume.
And we can’t end this post without mentioning the dozens of reuse projects for polystyrene foam. As for that tissue paper, don’t toss it! Save it! You can always find another place for it, from future shipments to thoughtful gifts (hey, the holidays are right around the corner after all).
Written by Amanda Wills