Polystyrene: Is it recyclable?



Theoretically, polystyrene—also known as Plastic no. 6—is 100% recyclable. However, in Quebec, it is only 17% recycled. I know you’re wondering why. Well, the issue lies mainly in the weight of the material. Polystyrene is very lightweight! Although its constitution is so useful and effective for food packaging, it becomes an issue in terms of profitability during transportation. Carrying air is expensive! As polystyrene is up to 95% air, it takes up a lot of space for what it can give back. The return on investment is not very attractive for recyclers.


Thankfully, the situation is changing. Innovative technologies are being developed and are slowly but surely proving to be effective in making recycling polystyrene more accessible. They compress and densify the material, in turn reducing shipping costs by up to 97%.[1]


Why recycle it?

Despite certain beliefs, polystyrene is an eco-responsible material that requires little energy to be produced and leaves a smaller ecological footprint than its competitors in the food packaging industry. Imagine if all polystyrene food trays were recycled! With them, we could make finished products such as decorative frames, mouldings, horticultural products, hangers, office accessories, insulating boards and much more. They could also be used to produce new food packaging.


At Cascades, we reclaim this material, producing food trays with 25% recycled polystyrene. . . and we are the first in the North American industry to do so!


How do you recycle it?

As a citizen, you must first contact your municipality to find out if plastic no. 6 can be put in your recycling bin. If the service is not available, you can save your food trays and bring them to an ecocentre.


Quebec City, Kingsey Falls and 65 California communities accept this material in their selective collection. Lac St-Jean will be joining these leaders in June 2016.


There are a few ecocentre collection sites in Quebec: La Haute-Yamaska Regional County Municipality, Sherbrooke, Haut-St-François Regional County Municipality, LaSalle.


Did you know?

Since 2009, Michel Iliesco, Marketing and Innovation Director at Cascades Specialty Products Group, is part of a polystyrene recycling committee that aims to develop the resources for recovering and recycling this material. This committee is looking to integrate polystyrene to selective collection as of 2018.


You can also contribute to the recycling of polystyrene by asking your municipality to implement this process and bringing yours to a collection site.


[1] http://www.plastics.ca/Recycling/Polystyrene/index.php


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About the Author
Sara Boissonneault

Sara is an intern at the Cascades Communications Department for the 2015 Fall session. Energetic and dedicated, Sara is working toward earning her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing Communications, cooperative profile, from Université de Sherbrooke. She is also completing a certificate program in Sustainable Development at Université Laval. Her interest in this field and the company’s innovative spirit are what led her to this position. “Cascades carries wonderful values that I feel strongly about and motivate me. I am acquiring new skills through the unique assignments I get from the team—simply reinforcing the pride I take in being a part of the Cascades team.”

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