Styrofoam usage has increased for most people during the pandemic as people rely more than ever on online shopping and curbside services. It's in our to-go containers and packaging and inevitably tends to end up in the trash. But it doesn't all have to end up in a landfill.
Eco Development, a company in Mason, invested in machinery this year to recycle polystyrene, known to most people as Styrofoam.
Ken Lewis, vice president of materials at the company, said, " 'Waste diversion' is the word of the day. If you have the opportunity to keep waste out of the landfill, it's better for all of us."
He said the Styrofoam goes through a process at their facility where it's eventually compacted into brick-like cubes. Then it's sold to companies, primarily in the United States, Canada and Europe so it can be reused.
"So insulation, that's a huge one -- so back into the construction industry... the other hopper is picture frames," he said. "So many of us either are not using picture frames anymore and if we are we're looking for cheap ones and they're made out of plastic, not wood."
It's also used to make hangers, surf boards and pellets.
Lewis said Eco Development primarily focuses on recycling plastics and other goods, but installed the machinery for Styrofoam in February and began using it in March.
That's because there's a growing demand for the product. For instance, in 2018, at least 113.8 million pounds of it was recycled. Last year, it increased to at least 136.8 million pounds.
And while recycling Styrofoam may not be as easy as curbside recycling yet, it could be some day.
"Yes, it does take maybe a little extra step on our part, but the industry is taking steps forward to try to make it as easy and convenient for the consumer," Lewis said. "I think we're going to see a huge evolution for that especially here over the next 10 years."
The company offers free and contactless drop-off for people wanting to recycle their Styrofoam. For more information, visit the Eco Development website.