LINCOLN SQUARE — Styrofoam, aka No. 6 plastic, is a major no-no in Chicago's blue recycling carts.
That means all those to-go food containers, disposable plates, coffee cups, etc. are trash.
It's not that Styrofoam isn't recyclable — manufacturers aren't lying when they slap the "number 6 chasing arrows" symbol on egg cartons.
It's that most recycling facilities don't accept Styrofoam (a brand name used generically, like Kleenex).
Why not? Because, not to mince words, it's a pain in the butt to collect and process.
Recyclables are typically measured by weight, and polystyrene foam is incredibly light. So it takes more effort to collect a pound of Styrofoam versus a pound of plastic or cardboard or glass or aluminum.
Once it is collected, polystyrene foam needs to be sorted (potentially by hand) and, most importantly, compacted, which requires a special piece of equipment called a "densifier."
But there are markets for this compacted foam, which can be used to make things like picture frames, baseboards and crown molding.
Dart Container Corp. is one company that's gotten into the business of collecting and processing Styrofoam. Though its main facility is in Michigan, Dart operates a drop-off center in Chicago, which is open 24/7 and accepts all types of No. 6 plastic except packing peanuts.
Hardcore recyclers can take their Styrofoam to 7575 S. Kostner Ave. (see map). Look for the big metal cage near the 76th Street entrance.