Greenlaurel: Did you Know you Can Recycle Foam Food Containers in Baltimore City?

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Better yet, bring your own mug or container and avoid foam food containers.

Foam food containers and “styrofoam” box packaging seem to be everywhere. If expanded polystyrene (white plastic foamy product sometimes called by the brand name, Styrofoam) isn’t clogging our garbage or our waterways, it’s often littering our streets.

But at least in Baltimore City, residents and businesses can recycle polystyrene at the Northwest Citizens’ Convenience Center on Sisson Street. Taking this do-gooder step doesn’t solve the larger foam issue — the stuff never, ever breaks down — but at a minimum, Baltimore City’s recycling program is a better option than just tossing it in the trash, or worse, having the foam find its way into our harbor or bay, where little critters think it’s lunch.

Baltimore City has partnered with Dart Container Corporation to make foam recycling a reality. Residents and businesses can drop off rinsed foam food containers that are coded #6. Also accepted for recycling is the packaging foam used for shipping boxes. Recycled foam can be remade into lots of products including frames and moulding.

Insulation and packing peanuts are not accepted at the drop off center. Click here to find the closest retail store that accepts packing peanuts. (Honestly, don’t you want to whack the sender who mails you a huge box stuffed with those horrible foam peanuts?)

The collected foam is bagged so that it stays clean and intact during transport.

The Northwest Citizens’ Convenience Center is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the site is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Remember, you can also recycle electronics, hazardous materials (check dates), rigid plastics, appliances and metals at the center. A practical note: the “dump’s” sign is kind of hidden, so look for the grey cinderblock building directly across from the Burger King on the corner of 29th and Sisson streets.

Consider asking your favorite Baltimore City restaurants to kick the to-go foam container habit, or at a minimum, ask them to recycle foam containers. As a bonus, you can share with them that Baltimore City offers any city business free recycling pickup. The city will even schedule dumpster pickups up to three times a week, which can save businesses serious trash disposal costs. (Baltimore County doesn’t offer foam recycling.)

It does seem a bit unfair that for those who are trying to do the right thing and recycle items that are not accepted curbside — foam and hazardous materials at the drop off center, compact fluorescent lightbulbs at Lowes and Home Depot and plastic grocery bags at the grocery store — it’s a bit of a hassle.

But maybe you’ll get a few green karma points for taking the extra step to keep these products out of the incinerator. Heaven knows this planet can use some TLC.

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Laurel Peltier

Laurel writes the monthly environmental GreenLaurel column. A graduate of UVA's MBA program, she spends her time with her family and making "all things green" interesting. She co-wrote the Abell Foundation Report detailing Maryland's dysfunctional energy supplier marketplace and the negative outcomes for low-income households.
Laurel Peltier
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  1. Wouldn’t it be even better if the City just accepted the styrofoam as part of it single stream recycling. Then more residents could and probably would recycle it.

    • Julie: Thanks for your question about styrofoam recycling being combined with curbside recycling. Jeffrey Raymond, DPW’s press relations chief weighed in about the possibility: “Laurel, official response below. It is a vendor/technology matter. There is no single-stream recycling vendor in our area that accepts Styrofoam in single stream recycling. The process for recycling Styrofoam is much more difficult than other materials. We accept Styrofoam at Sisson Street due to a contract we have with Dart Container.”

      I’ve been to the Waste Management facility in Jessup, Md and toured the highly-automated recycling facility. Dart Container started this foam recycling project – the company produces millions of tons of never-ever-break-down foam.

  2. Thanks for spreading the good news about the Sisson Street Facility at the border of Hampden and Remington. Very convenient off I-83. RECYCLE IS COMING! (Sorry couldn’t help myself)

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