What is Polystyrene?

Polystyrene is often confused with Styrofoam™, a trademarked brand of Dow Chemical Company insulation. However, it is actually a thermoplastic that can be used in rigid and foam applications. Polystyrene is identified by the #6 resin identification code. Resin identificiation codes are used to identify plastics for recycling purposes.

Types of Foam #6

Polystyrene foam is used in a variety of applications across multiple industries, including automotive, appliances, electronics, and transportation. Because of foam’s functionality, low cost, and insulating and protective properties, it is a sensible choice for many organizations.


Common uses for foam #6 include:

Food and beverage products such as cups, plates, bowls, food trays, and clamshell containers.

Transportation packaging used to ship electronics, furniture and other fragile items – even fish! This lightweight foam can be molded into any shape and offers excellent protection and insulation.

Loose-fill packaging. Because some, but not all, packing peanuts are made of polystyrene foam, the best way to recycle them is to reuse them or donate them for reuse. Including non-polystyrene in a foam #6 recycling program can contaminate and ruin otherwise good material.

Medical coolers used to keep vaccines and medicines at critical temperatures as they are shipped to hospitals, clinics, and homes. Some pharmaceutical companies offer mail-back programs that enable hospitals and physicians’ offices to easily recycle medical coolers. In these programs, coolers are shipped along with pre-paid return labels for mailing the used coolers to recycling centers.

The types of foam products accepted for recycling varies between processing facilities. Check with your recycling facility to confirm what types of foam are accepted.