The Novi High School Styrofoam recycling team asked city council Monday to help spread awareness about expanded polystyrene foam recycling.
The recycling team, which included Shashiank Chitta, Asawari Kanitkar, Yash Sathe and Dhivya Sridar, explained the negative effects of throwing away EPS foam.
EPS foam can contaminate other recyclables and release harmful chemicals into the air. As a result, EPS foam is excluded from single stream recycle bins and tossed into landfills instead.
Also, EPS foam takes up a large amount of space in landfills since it’s made up of 95 percent air and can take hundreds of years to decompose.
“It’s estimated that a single polystyrene cup can take up to 500 years to degrade in a landfill,” Chitta said.
As part of the solution, the recycling team asked city council to adopt the Pay-As-You-Throw program to increase EPS foam recycling.
The PAYT program charges residents for the amount of solid waste collected. In other words: The more you recycle, the less you pay.
“With this program, communities treat trash pickup services as a utility such as electricity or heating,” Sridar said. “A major advantage of this PAYT program would be that it would offset waste management expenses with an increased income of a higher percentage of recyclables.”
Residents would also be provided with a dual-purpose recycling bin for EPS foam and other single stream recyclables including paper, plastic, cardboard, glass and metal.
The recycling team also proposed that all schools within the Novi Community School District adopt a policy to recycle EPS foam lunch trays.
Sridar said she was surprised to learn that Novi High School threw away thousands of EPS foam lunch trays each day.
“It was especially surprising to us that our own Novi High School of over 2000 students did not recycle any of the thousand plus trays generated per day from students who buy lunch,” she said. “In addition, EPS foam is also going into the trash at cafes, businesses and other institutes across Novi such as Providence Park Hospital.”
In addition to the PAYT program, the recycling team requested that the city of Novi lease a Dart densifier to reduce the amount of space necessary to store and transport EPS foam to a recycling facility. A Dart densifier could save the city of Novi thousands of dollars per year.
For example, a 6-by-6-by-6 cubic yard dumpster costs $1020 per month while a Dart densifier costs $295 per month. That’s $8700 worth of savings per year.
“These densifiers, which cost around $295 per month, compact clean food service and packaging polystyrene into 40 pound blocks, which are shipped off to companies such as Eco-Partners who use this foam as a commodity,” Kanitkar said. “Using these densifiers from Dart would be a cheaper and more effective way to transport the polystyrene foam.”