Greener BeeGreen ElectronicsGardeners to offer recycling of packaging foam

Did you know, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent?

Added food waste, disposable tree trimmings, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all add an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills, or 5 million extra tons by the time the holidays are over (

One of those waste packaging products is “Styrofoam.” In fact,
Styrofoam is the trade-marked brand of extruded polystyrene foam
produced by the Dow Chemical Companies. It is known for its excellent
insulating properties, its bright blue color and its use in construction
where damp-proofing is required. It’s also used in floral arrangements.

the (usually) white, expanded — as opposed to extruded — polystyrene
foam is a different material. Also an excellent insulator, it’s usually
used in packaging materials. This is the stuff that Master Gardeners
will be collecting once again on two Saturdays in January. The dates are
Saturday, Jan. 16, and Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. Collection times for
each day are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The drop-off will be held on
Microtronics Way next to the Waste Management Inc. site just off Camage
Avenue in the Tuolumne Road industrial park. Take Tuolumne Road and
follow the signs.

Waste Management (Cal Sierra Division) is providing
two large open top trash containers and two large metal racks. One rack
will hold packing-grade polystyrene; the other will hold food-grade
polystyrene separately. As in prior collections, the recycler will
accept only clean food containers, which we ask you to put into clear
plastic bags. Packing grade polystyrene (used for shipping and wrapping
items such as electronics) may be put into colored plastic bags.

you have to do is load the material in your car or truck, drive on by,
and Master Gardeners will help you unload. How can you participate?

• Look for the No. 6 in the recyclable triangle label on the bottom of the material.
• Donate only clean packaging foam and rigid, white, foam insulation.
• Please remove all tape, labels, stickers, paint, cardboard and any other non-polystyrene materials.
• Food containers need to be clean, with no food or grease residue.
• We cannot accept bubble wrap or packing peanuts.

foam is typically used to pack computers, TVs, appliances, furniture,
wine, steaks, and medications. Foam insulation is typically used around
building foundations and to insulate pipes.   

Some packaging
materials are now made from other kinds of foam. Only No. 6 expanded
polystyrene foam can be reprocessed. For that reason, packing peanuts
and other kinds of packaging materials, like bubble wrap, cannot be
collected during the recycling event. Pac N Copy, in the Junction
Shopping Center, and some other shipping companies will accept your
packing peanuts and some other packaging materials.  

Please don’t
toss this material into the trash — it’s a disposal nightmare. The
material collected will be trucked to a Lodi manufacturer that
repurposes it into clean food containers.

Many cities, counties and
other jurisdictions in California have banned the use of expanded
polystyrene food containers. In addition, an organization called SOS —
Save Our Shores — is working to protect our ocean from plastic
pollution. For more suggestions on ways to “green your holidays” by
reducing the use of plastics, go to: or

Remember to save all that packing from your
holiday gifts and bring it in later this month. We look forward to
seeing you in the New Year, and thank you for again helping us keep this
bulky material out of the landfill.

For additional information, please call the Tuolumne County Master Gardener Hotline at 533-5912 or email
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Rebecca Miller-Cripps is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.

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