Poulsbo groups work together to recycle Styrofoam

Styrofoam is one of the most difficult plastics to recycle and is not accepted in curbside programs.

But recently, three local organizations joined to keep nearly 1,000 cubic feet of Styrofoam out of landfills, collecting clean Styrofoam and transporting it to Kent using empty space inside a truck.

Fishline Food Bank, Poulsbo Rotary Club, and Hill Moving Services worked to collect, sort and transport the Expanded Polystyrene, often made under the brand name Styrofoam, to Styro Recycle in Kent.

Styro Recycle uses a “densifier” to heat and compress the material into heavy blocks of polystyrene, which they sell to become crown molding, picture frames and building materials.

The project took shape in response to a problem: Poulsbo Rotary had no more space to store the cleaned and sorted Styrofoam it had been collecting.

“We didn’t want to rent a box truck and drive it round-trip to Kent. It is just not a sustainable use of time, fuel or carbon emissions,” said Poulsbo Rotarian Lori Cloutier, chair of the club’s Trash Talk Taskforce. “We really wanted to find a truck that was already going to Kent.”

That’s when Lori Maxim, executive director of Fishline, realized that their monthly delivery of food from the Kent area made that route.

Hill Moving Service has been working with Fishline to help with the food bank coalition pick-up from Kent for years. Owner Mike Hill was happy to add the Styrofoam transportation to the food run.

Styrofoam is mechanically easy to recycle — once it is collected and transported to a densifier machine. But the very properties that make it good for packaging make it nearly impossible to transport in a sustainable way. It does not compress well, causing a few ounces to take up enormous amounts of space. It also breaks easily, causing small beads to escape into the environment where it is often mistaken for food by birds and animals. By some estimates, it may take up to 25 percent of landfill space.