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Environment & Energy

What To Do With All That Christmas Packing Material?

Chances are, if you got that gigantic flat screen television this holiday season, there was polystyrene in the packaging. But now that the TV is on the wall, what are you going to do with all that stuff?

Instead of throwing away the white molded packaging material, the Pennsylvania Resources Council is encouraging you to recycle it at a designated drop-off spot.

“We know [polystyrene is] out there,” said Sarah Shea, environmental education coordinator with the council. “We know people are getting it in different packaging in products that they buy. Making sure there’s a way for them to keep it out of the landfill and make some new products is definitely key.”

In Pittsburgh, the drop-off location is  at the Appliance Warehouse at 523 Bingham St in the South Side.

“The Appliance Warehouse actually has a densifier on site where they’re able to capture the material,” Shea said. “What it does is it shrinks it down and they are able to ship it off and make some new products.”

Recycled polystyrene can be made into clothes hangers, decorative moldings, insulation and even picture frames.  

The PRC, in partnership with NOVA Chemicals, started collecting polystyrene last holiday season. In 2014, more than 2,400 cubic feet of polystyrene was collected at four different "Hard to Recycle" collection events.

In an effort to make recycling more convenient, the council introduced drop-off bins in November. The one at Appliance Warehouse has been available since Thanksgiving.

“The long-term goal was to provide more convenient year round options for folks to drop off polystyrene,” Shea said. “In our partnership with NOVA, we’re now working to expand that so there are more locations for people to drop off the material.”

The drop-off location will accept loose pieces and blocks of polystyrene, but not packing peanuts. According to Shea, local UPS stores accept packing peanuts for reuse.

Shea said she hopes this encourages people to hold onto their polystyrene until they can visit the South Side location.

“At the end of the month into January, when people, after opening everything and receiving everything, have this left over, they will think twice,” Shea said. “They won’t be setting it out in the landfill or in their trash can. They’ll keep it and make that extra little trip over to a place where they can drop it off.”