Mountains of Styrofoam can now be recycled and repurposed.
University of Washington

UW Recycling does not accept Styrofoam from off campus.

If you are looking for local resources to dispose of Styrofoam, please consult King County Solid Waste Division’s What do I do with…? tool and Seattle Public Utilities’ Special Item Collections.

Love it or hate it, Styrofoam is everywhere.

Since its introduction in 1954, Styrofoam (the common name for foamed polystyrene) has permeated as a low-cost, lightweight material with a wide array of uses. It is easy to make, can be formed in any shape, resists moisture, resists light and insulates temperature. As a shipping material, Styrofoam protects products and reduces costs better than any known material.

With so much value, it can be hard to remember why Styrofoam is such a bad thing. For two reasons: It’s toxic and it never goes away. Styrofoam is petroleum based and starts as small, spherical beads that contain an expanding agent called hydrocarbon. The polystyrene beads are heated with steam, and as the hydrocarbon boils, the beads soften and expand up to forty times their original size. The end product is about 98% air.

The chemicals used in the production of Styrofoam are known carcinogens. While it is considered safe in everyday use, it is extremely toxic when burned. As a result, it cannot safely be incinerated and typically ends up in the landfill after a single use where it takes up considerable space.

No known microorganism has yet been shown to biodegrade Styrofoam. Even more concerning, the lightweight, beadlike material breaks apart easily and can enter back into the surrounding environment by birds, wind and water flow, where it is deadly to wildlife and toxic to humans. Styrofoam is abundant as a form of pollution in the outdoor environment.

While UW has eliminated all polystyrene-based consumer products, Styrofoam is widely received in shipments. Recognizing the need to deal with the Styrofoam before it ends up in the landfill, UW Recycling began a program in 2010 to collect and recycle Styrofoam.

UW Recycling provides large clear bags to collect packing peanuts, Styrofoam/polystyrene blocks and boxes for most campus locations. Contact UW Recycling at to learn more.

UW Recycling Styrofoam guide


Project Contact Name: 
UW Recycling
(206) 685-2811