Cochrane recyclables now include Styrofoam

Cochrane has added Styrofoam-type containers to the list of items residents in the Alberta town can recycle.
This polystyrene cold compactor is unique to Western Canada, said the town's recycling co-ordinator. ((Town of Cochrane))

Cochrane has added Styrofoam-type containers to the list of items residents in the Alberta town can recycle.

Clean meat trays, coffee cups, packing peanuts and other foam polystyrene items are gobbled up by a new $35,000 machine at the Cochrane Recycling Depot. It shreds the material into little pieces and compacts it into a block one-tenth of the original size.

"Probably the size of a semi-trailer load of loose Styrofoam can be compacted into a one-foot by one-foot square," said Barry Pitcher, the town's recycling co-ordinator.

Polystyrene foam never decomposes in a landfill, but it can be turned into a high quality, hard plastic.

Most community recycling depots don't accept Styrofoam-type products because they are bulky to ship and the bottom has fallen out of the market. When demand returns, Pitcher said Cochrane hopes to sell the compacted bales in Asia.

"We would stockpile and then ship it to Asian mills where they'll reduce it and do the melting process and create a product," said Pitcher. "Window winders in vehicles, anything you see that's really hard is usually made out of expanded polystyrene reduced and melted."

Willing to accept Calgary Styrofoam

While the nearby City of Calgary doesn't include foam polystyrene in its new curbside recycling program, Pitcher said if Calgarians are willing to take a little drive, they can drop off their polystyrene foam at his depot.

For new Cochrane resident Mike Chin, the addition to the town's recycling program is welcome news.

"It saves me from having to just put it into a garbage bag and take it to the dump or throw it away. So it definitely helps out because a lot of things nowadays come with Styrofoam."

The town has limited garbage collection to just two bags and its recycling depot takes bicycles, clothing and even has a lending library for books.