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Proper disposal of styrofoam

Polystyretyrofoam is a popular material we frequently encounter, whether as insulation for the facade of a house, packaging material for a new flat-screen TV or fruit packaging from the supermarket. After large quantities of styrofoam waste have accumulated, the question of how to dispose of it quickly arises. Disposing of styrofoam as an insulating material has been the subject of much discussion in the past, leading to the adoption of new regulations. Despite this, many people are still left with questions regarding the correct method of disposal. We at Hailo, have cleared up some of the ambiguities and summarised the most important information on the correct disposal for you - regardless of whether you’re dealing with standard household or treated styrofoam.

What is styrofoam made of?

Expanded polystyrene (EPS), the technical term for styrofoam, consists of 98% air. The remaining 2% consists of polystyrene, an expanded plastic. Polystyrene acquires its core properties through the foaming process. It’s exceptionally light and has great insulating properties. With its structure, polystyrene cushions impact and, when used as packaging, protects countless objects in the same way a bicycle helmet protects our heads.

Styrofoam can be used in the most diverse forms without losing its function as an insulating material, whether it is shaped as a ball, pressed flat or shaped.

What is important for the correct disposal of styrofoam?

Precisely because of the inconspicuous composition of styrofoam, and because we come across it so often in everyday life, many people assume that disposing of it is a simple process, where you can throw it away  with household waste or in Yellow Bags with the rest of your plastic waste. But it’s not always that simple. The decisive factor for styrofoam disposal is how it’s used. Depending on whether it was used as packaging, for transport or as a building material, it must be disposed of in different ways.

How do I dispose of styrofoam from the packaging?

In general, styrofoam waste used as packaging should be disposed of in the Yellow Bag, the yellow bin or at the recycling centre. This applies to the styrofoam inside of cartons used to stabilise products, small styrofoam balls from shipping cartons, styrofoam packaging from the grocery store or similar styrofoam waste generated in private households.

Where can I dispose of styrofoam sheets from the construction site?

Since styrofoam is ideal as an insulating material, it is often used for this exact purpose. However, because styrofoam catches fire quite easily, insulation boards have to meet special fire protection requirements in construction. In most cases, the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane, or HBCD for short, is added to them. If HBCD-containing insulation materials accumulate on the construction site or during renovation, they must be disposed of with residual waste.

Hopefully, with the above tips, your questions have been answered, and the next piece of styrofoam you come across in the household is from now on disposed of correctly.

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