Recycling Q&A

Recycling – Basic Information

Question Answer
Is food contaminated foam recyclable? Yes. Food contaminated foam is washed and recycled in the same way that all plastic food containers are washed and recycled.
What does it get recycled into? Foam is recycled into pellets which are used to make picture frames, crown molding, tape dispensers, paper spools and many more products people use every day.
Will NYC need to create a new program to collect foam? No. Foam will be collected in the same stream as all other residential metal, glass, and plastic.
Can the facility that sorts NYC’s recyclables sort foam? Yes. The City’s designated sorting facility has already performed a test and successfully sorted foam, baled it, and sent it to a recycler that recycled it into new products.
Do other cities recycle foam? Yes. For a list of locations, go to- and

Recycling – Economics

Question Answer
Can DSNY collect foam in the existing residential program for metal, glass, and plastic? Yes. DSNY made the following statement regarding foam collection “DSNY estimates that the recycling of EPS would not add additional recycling or refuse collection truck mileage due to the relatively low weight of EPS in the system, and the current excess capacity per truck shift.”
What will it cost for the City to sort the material? The program is free. Dart has agreed to cover 100% of the infrastructure costs to add foam sortation equipment to the City’s sorting facility.
Does NYC have a buyer for its foam? Yes. Plastic Recycling, Inc. (PRI) located in Indianapolis, IN has offered to purchase all solid and foam polystyrene and pay to transport it out of NYC by rail or barge to their facility. Using a typical collection rate, the recycling proposal will generate an additional $2,198,639 in revenue annually.
Can Plastic Recycling, Inc. handle NYC’s volume? PRI has enough demand to satisfy a 100% recycling rate for a city five times the size of NYC. The facility is ready to receive NYC’s material today. Here is a link to a video showcasing the facility-


How will recycling save tax payers money? A partial ban only covers a little more than 20% of NYC’s solid and foam polystyrene which means nearly 80% will continue to be landfilled. The recycling proposal, however, will cover virtually 100% of polystyrene and save tax payers at least $3.4 million annually in avoided landfill fees.
What products will I be able to recycle with this plan? While the partial ban only covers fast-food containers, the recycling plan covers fast food containers like foam cups and foam clamshells, foam egg cartons, foam meat trays, foam fish boxes, foam ice chests, and block foam often used to ship electronic items like TVs. Plus, the recycling plan also covers solid polystyrene items that are currently being landfilled like tape dispensers, red Solo cups, clear salad containers, yogurt containers, CD jewel cases , Swiffer wipe boxes, etc.
Are alternatives to foam foodservice containers more expensive? Yes. According to a recent report by Berkeley Research Group, the incremental cost for a switch to non-foam alternatives will cost more than $50 million annually in NYC.
Is it economical to recycle foam? Yes. A study by SERA found that even without the investment by industry, the recycling proposal is profitable. In fact, polystyrene is more profitable per ton than glass, aseptic cartons, and ferrous materials.
Is recycling foam economical long term? Yes. The value of recycling, which includes direct benefits and the avoided costs of the ban, likely exceeds $250 million for NYC over the next five years.

Recycling – Environmental

Question Answer
Does foam fill our landfills? No. According to DSNY, “EPS currently accounts for 0.8% of the City’s curbside waste.”
How does the recycling plan affect the Mayor’s Zero Waste goals? There will be no Zero Waste without foam recycling. The partial ban only covers a little more than 20% of all foam and solid polystyrene which means 80% will continue to be landfilled. The recycling plan, however, covers virtually 100% of polystyrene.
Will foam recycling result in more trucks on NYC streets? No. “DSNY estimates that the recycling of EPS would not add additional recycling or refuse collection truck mileage due to the relatively low weight of EPS in the system, and the current excess capacity per truck shift.”   Plus, the proposal stipulates that the material will be sent to Indianapolis via rail.
Isn’t solid polystyrene already accepted in the City’s residential recycling program? Yes, however, the City does not have a market for it so instead of being recycled, it is being sent to landfills at tax payer expense. The recycling proposal will ensure it gets recycled which will save tax payers money while also generating revenue.
Will banning foam prevent litter and marine debris? No. Banned items will simply be replaced with alternatives that can also be littered. In California, as part of a multiyear review, state officials in 2015 identified numerous effective methods to prevent litter from reaching the oceans, typically involving systems designed to screen litter from waterways that lead to the ocean. Consistent with a study in San Francisco, the state specifically rejected product bans as a method to reduce litter, noting “Mere substitution would not result in reduced trash generation if such product substitution would be discarded in the same manner as the banned item.”
Is polystyrene foam safe? “Polystyrene’s safety profile is so strong that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the safety of polystyrene to be used in direct contact with foods and beverages – and for 50 years, has confirmed polystyrene to be safe for this use.”


Aren’t popular alternatives better for the environment? When a foam cup is compared to popular paper cups that require a corrugated sleeve, over its entire life cycle foam cups consume less energy, produce less solid waste by weight a volume, and generate fewer air, water, and greenhouse gas emissions.