Towers of styrofoam turn from trash to recycling

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Styrofoam is one of the most popular plastics. It is easy and cheap to manufacture. Styrofoam is one of the most commonly used ways to keep items cool in the medical field. It is also something that cannot be recycled in a recycling bin.  

One group at the University of Rochester Medical Center is hoping to do their part in getting rid of the mountains of Styrofoam.

“We’ll get a shipment of a tube about this size,” said Francesca Agobe, referring to a small tube around the size of a pinky finger. “That will be the only thing in something super big.” 

Agobe is a grad student at URMC and found that getting rid of them properly is not as easy as it seems. “I was trying to clean out my lab and I asked where can I recycle the Styrofoam, and I was told I just have to throw it in the trash,” said Agobe. 

While many Styrofoam boxes are recyclable plasic, curbside recycling will not take them because of the type of plastic. The only way to properly recycle them is to visit the Eco Park in Monroe County if you are a resident there. 

Agobe was tired to see so much head into the landfill, or worse, in the environment. A major problem with Styrofoam is its ability to easily break apart into small beads, called micro-beads. So small that they become completely invisible to the naked eye.

Post-doctoral Associate Greg Madejski is studying impacts of microplastics that end up in our bodies. He says that it is everywhere, for example all drinking water.

“The smaller it is, the more likely it is that it will stay inside you and cause long term damage,” said Madejski.  

Some of his work focuses on filtering out microbeads that are a few microns in size. A clear glass of water can produce many microplastics. Enough was enough, and a team at the University posted in the hallway collecting clean Styrofoam boxes. 

The group brought them to a private company that was willing to accept the Styrofoam and recycle it.  

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