Cedar Falls residents learn to recycle Styrofoam

Expanded polystyrene, commonly called Styrofoam. It’s the stuff kids like to break up all over the living room floor after they open big-box presents on Christmas morning. It’s the stuff that’s a gigantic space eater in your garbage bags. It’s practically a staple of the packaging industry — and sometimes you’d like to tell the packaging industry what they can do with it.

The city of Cedar Falls knows what to do with it, and is telling their residents and businesses the same. In Cedar Falls, it can be recycled now.

Aided by $20,000 from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the city has acquired and installed machine that heats and compresses, or called “densifies,” the stuff down to a size for recyclers to accept.

“It’ll handle around 300 pounds per hour” when fully operational. “That’s a lot of Styrofoam,” said Brian Heath, public works and parks division manager with the city of Cedar Falls.

The Iowa DNR awarded the city a $20,000 Solid Waste Alternatives Program grant to help offset the cost of purchasing the equipment. Another $20,000 is coming from cost savings from an estimated $550,000 recent addition to the recycling center.

People realized it was very difficult for residents to recycle different types of plastic foam at home, and found out from recyclers that, there was a market for this material. Plastic foam materials may be dropped off at the main recycling facility and at two remote locations. Residents are required to bag small packing peanuts to prevent them from escaping the container. Plastic foam food containers must be clean and free of all food residue.

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