Foam Waste Disposal

Whether you sleep on a memory foam mattress or work within the construction and manufacturing industry – you likely use foam products more than you imagine. However, as a business owner, you must take the necessary steps to safely and securely dispose of these products – to minimise their impact upon the environment.

foam waste disposal

What are the different types of foam?

There are various different kinds of foam that you may encounter in the running of your business. However, the most popular tend to be:

Memory Foam. Memory foam is predominantly used in the construction of mattresses, pillows and padding. As a result, most memory foam waste accumulates within the hospitality industry at hotels & B&Bs.

Memory foam is made from low-resistance polyurethane and contains a series of open foam bubbles which allow air to move through the foam.

Polystyrene Foam. Polystyrene comes in two forms. Rigid polystyrene which is used for products such as CD & DVD cases, and Foamed/expanded polystyrene, which is used to create packaging materials and products such as cups and takeout containers. Polystyrene foam is made from hydrocarbon polymers, making it a form of plastic waste.

Styrofoam. Styrofoam is a commercial brand of polystyrene; however, it is more typically used within the construction industry because it is 98% air and therefore particularly buoyant and lightweight. It is often used for building and pipe insulation.

Expanding Foam. Again, expanding foam is often used within the construction industry or to carry out home repairs. It is typically purchased to fill gaps or cavities in walls. Expanding foam is made from polyurethane and creates a long-lasting seal.

Pink Foam Insulation. As you can probably tell by the name, pink foam is often used within the construction industry as a form of insulation.

However, as there are various types of foam – it’s important that you know how to dispose of each one after use.

This guide covers just about everything you need to know about foam disposal by answering the most common questions about each type of foam.

Memory Foam Disposal

Is memory foam biodegradable?

In the UK alone, around 67,000 tonnes of mattresses are sent to a landfill each year, many of which are made from memory foam or similar materials. While studies suggest that they break down slightly over time due to long-term exposure to sunlight, they are not biodegradable. As a result, they contribute heavily to the overcrowding of landfills and global warming.

How do you recycle memory foam?

The easiest way to recycle a memory foam product is to donate to a charity or sell it to be reused elsewhere. However, when taken to the appropriate recycling facility, the materials are shredded and turned into new products. For example, recycled foam from mattresses is sometimes used to create underlay for carpets.

Polystyrene Foam Disposal

How do you dispose of polystyrene foam?

As mentioned previously, expanded polystyrene and styrofoam products are made with 98% air – which means that they only contain around 2% plastic. As a result, it is entirely recyclable when disposed of correctly. However, the products can only be recycled using expensive and complex machinery, making the process a little more complicated. While not every council collects these products, various recycling companies do.

What can I do with a large piece of styrofoam?

Instead of throwing styrofoam away after use, you should instead begin by finding an alternative use for the product. You can use styrofoam:

    To insulate your home or business.
    As a canvas for art projects or to create models.
    As containers for growing plants (both indoors and outdoors)
    As alternative storage for your home.

What are the downsides of disposing of Styrofoam in a landfill?

The major downside of disposing of styrofoam products at a landfill site is the simple fact that they do not easily biodegrade. In fact, it’s estimated that they can take anywhere between five and 1000 years to degrade naturally. During this time, they take up a great deal of finite space at landfill sites – which are already overcrowded.

Furthemore, as the styrofoam breaks down, small pieces of the material could be caught by the wind, resulting in styrofoam ending up in lakes or other bodies of water – further polluting the ocean.

Can I burn Styrofoam?

For a long time, businesses would choose to incinerate certain items as a form of waste disposal. However, burning products such as polystyrene and styrofoam is incredibly dangerous. This is because they release a variety of toxic chemicals such as Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide negatively impacts the planet, the earth’s atmosphere and even poses a threat to human health.

Expanding Foam Disposal

How do you dispose of expanding foam?

Expanded foam products can be recycled, though again, they must be taken to the appropriate facility where they can be repurposed and given a second life. As the vast majority of expanding foam products are sold in the form of aerosols, you should also ensure that the container is correctly disposed of. To begin with, you must ensure that it is empty and that it is not damaged, scratched or pierced in any way. They can then be thrown away alongside the rest of your metal waste.

Pink Foam Insulation Disposal

How do you dispose of pink foam insulation?

When you no longer need your foam insulation, you should first try to find alternative uses for the product or donate it – as this gives the products a second life without relying on landfill sites. Following this, you can arrange for your foam waste to be collected by a licensed carrier – where it is recycled through various methods, such as closed-loop recycling or chemical recycling.

How do you dispose of foam?

As mentioned above, there are various forms of foam waste disposal – many of which relate to finding alternative uses for the materials or ensuring that they reach the appropriate recycling facility. If you aren’t sure what to do with your foam waste – we can help. At BusinessWaste, we have decades of industry experience that allows us to deal with a variety of different waste products, including those that may be a little more complicated to dispose of, such as foam waste.

Furthemore, as a business owner, your waste management and disposal plan must align with government legislation. While there is no specific Foam waste legislation in place, it does fall under the umbrella of other regulations – such as the Environmental Protection Act. At BusinessWaste, we can ensure that your waste disposal is carried out in accordance with all regulations – giving you great peace of mind.

What type of foam is recyclable?

Despite common misbelief, the vast majority of foam waste can be recycled. For example, as traditional polystyrene cannot be recycled, many people believe that expanded, or foam polystyrene cannot be recycled either – but this is not the case. In fact, it’s estimated that around 100 tonnes of expanded polystyrene are recycled each month in the UK alone – with the figures rising steadily. Thankfully, further research and innovation into foam waste disposal means that foam recycling is becoming easier and more accessible to all.

Foam waste bins

Does foam go in the recycle bin?

While some forms of foam waste, such as expanded polystyrene, can be disposed of alongside the rest of your dry mixed recycling, it’s recommended that you store your foam waste separately. This way, you can avoid the cross-contamination of waste products stored at your facility. When working with Business Waste, we’ll make foam storage easy by providing you with access to a range of free foam bins in an array of sizes – from 120-litre wheelie bins to skips.

What can you do with scrap foam?

There are various alternative uses for scrap foam. Here are some great ideas to get you started!

    Reuse packing peanuts/styrofoam to protect items during transit. For example, if you are moving house, you can store fragile items such as cups, glasses and plates inside styrofoam to reduce the chances of them breaking.
    Small scraps of styrofoam can be added to coolers instead of ice, helping to keep your food and drinks cold on a warm day.
    Styrofoam can be used to create lightweight yet realistic-looking props for theatre productions and movies – so consider donating to your local theatre company!
    Styrofoam can be used to create a composter for your home.

How to reduce Foam Waste?

However, while disposing of foam waste is important, the difficulty of recycling these products means that business owners should be on the lookout for ways to reduce the amount of foam waste they produce. This goal can be achieved by:

    Sourcing eco-friendly alternatives to foam products. For example, you could ditch styrofoam cups and replace them with paper coffee cups.
    Donate or resell foam waste products before trying to sell them.
    Ensure that every member of your team is aware of which foam products can be recycled so that they are not accidentally thrown away alongside your general waste.
    Ensuring that you do not purchase more products than you need by managing your stock carefully.

Any more questions? Get in touch!

If you want to find out more about foam recycling or arrange for your waste to be collected, please do not hesitate to contact us. In fact, we can provide you with a very fast free quote and all the advice you require.

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