University sets standard for Styrofoam recycling

University sets standard for Styrofoam recycling

Have you ever wondered what happens to the Styrofoam packaging that came with your new standing desk, or the egg carton you brought home from the grocery store?

The process of recycling Styrofoam is highly efficient in terms of volume, effectively reducing a large box of Styrofoam like the one pictured above into a tiny box of melted product below.

When you throw it in the trash, does it break down or will future archaeologists be finding it in our landfills 10,000 years from now? Since June 2017, the Department of Caretaking at the University of Lethbridge's has been taking the lead on making sure Styrofoam from the University isn’t going to be taking up space in the landfill. 

The U of L is the first university in Canada to recycle Styrofoam on its campus. It has enlisted the services of StyroGo, a business out of Calgary, which brings a special Styrofoam recycling truck to the Lethbridge campus that shreds and melts waste Styrofoam into highly condensed blocks that are then re-sold to companies that use the recycled products to make into many different kinds of products, including toys and architectural molding.

According to Manager of Facilities – Caretaking, Judy Jaeger, recycling Styrofoam has proven to be a good choice for the University. While recycling the material is more expensive than traditional disposal methods, the sustainability benefits are outweighing the costs.

Since first starting its Styrofoam recycling program in June 2017, the University has recycled 490 lbs of Styrofoam, which is roughly equivalent to the volume of 4,000 basketballs. As a result, the U of L has reduced its greenhouse gas production by 1.69 Tn. As disposal fees for Styrofoam at the Lethbridge landfill increase over time and the technology for Styrofoam recycling continues to improve, the University anticipates that the financial incentive to recycle Styrofoam will only increase.

In the meantime, the U of L is also working to reduce the amount of Styrofoam coming to campus by ensuring that its Request for Proposals limit the packaging suppliers are allowed to send to the University.

Members of the University community can make sure that waste Styrofoam from their departments ends up being recycled instead of going to the landfill by leaving Styrofoam next to the central garbage bins in their area. Styrofoam must be clean of tape, food or other materials to be recycled. Caretaking staff will then make sure it gets collected with other Styrofoam for recycling. If you’d like to learn more about Styrofoam recycling at the University of Lethbridge, or as a service from StyroGo, contact Judy Jaeger (403-329-2060) or StyroGo President Robert Herritt (587-890-1140).