Living Columns & Blogs

Why can’t straws and Styrofoam be recycled in Centre County?

Plastic drinking straws are not accepted as part of the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority’s recycling program.
Plastic drinking straws are not accepted as part of the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority’s recycling program. AP

We have received a lot of calls and emails recently on the straw ban topic as well as the new changes to our Miscellaneous Plastics Recycling Program. I wanted to address each below as well as talk about my nemesis: Styrofoam.

Q: Why can’t we recycle straws?

A: Straws are not accepted as part of our county recycling program. Straws, if accidentally placed in one of our plastic bales, will be identified as a contaminant when sent to market. It is impossible to find a market for plastic straws, so please do not try to recycle them. The best thing you can do if you are using straws is to make sure they are placed securely in a refuse container. If straws are secured in a bag with other trash, they will be processed at our Transfer Station and sent to the landfill where they have minimal chance of ending up in our waterways.

Q: I heard you made some changes to your Miscellaneous Plastics Recycling Program. Can you elaborate?

A: Yes. The recycling markets have tightened up over the years and end users are accepting fewer and fewer non-bottle plastics these days. As a result, we have had to move some items that were previously accepted in our program to the “Do Not Recycle” list. Items that we can no longer accept in our Miscellaneous Plastics Recycling Program are: plastic cups, black plastics and plastic packaging from toothbrushes, batteries, toys, etc.

In addition, we do not accept the following items in our Miscellaneous Plastics Recycling Program: plastic wrap/film, buckets, flower pots, vinyl siding, six-pack rings or Styrofoam. Also, if an item does not fit in the opening of our Miscellaneous Plastics Recycling container, we cannot accept that either. Items left outside of recycling drop off containers are considered illegally dumped and violators will be prosecuted. If you are unsure what to bring to one of our six Miscellaneous Plastics Recycling drop off containers, a complete list can be found at www.centrecountyrecycles.org.

Q: What can I do with Styrofoam?

A: Styrofoam is not accepted in our county recycling program. We have worked for years to try to find a way to recycle it, because of the amount in circulation and public desire, but we have been unsuccessful. We have tried pilot recycling programs and have met with countless end markets. It is impossible to recycle at this time; hence the reason Styrofoam is my nemesis. Styrofoam should be placed in your refuse container. Styrofoam peanuts may be needed at local UPS Stores for packaging, but we recommend that you call the individual store in advance of dropping them off.

I hope this column helps to answer your questions about plastics. We really do try to recycle as much as we can in Centre County, but in the end, the items that we can accept are dictated by what we can sell to our end markets. Thank you for your understanding and thank you for recycling!

Amy Schirf is education coordinator for the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority. Contact her at aschirf@centrecountyrecycles.org.
  Comments