Tetley Initiates Styrofoam Recycling at Webster

| July 23, 2012

Justin Tetley, center, with Geoff Janovsky and Caitlin Zera, who worked together on the styrofoam recycling project.

Mail & Copy Solutions coordinator Justin Tetley had a situation in the mail center: a large stack of styrofoam packaging (approximately 500  pieces) he had collected over the course of a year, much of it from computers delivered for the new East Academic Building.

Throwing it away wasn’t practical, and more importantly, Tetley realized that wasn’t the sustainable thing to do. He know styrofoam wasn’t routinely recycled at Webster, but he wanted to give the styrofoam a second life and save it from the landfill. So he reached out to student employee Caitlin Zera and groundskeeper Geoff Janovsky who work with recycling in Facilities.

Zera researched recycling facilities and discovered that the EPC Recycling Center in St. Charles is the only place in the St. Louis area currently accepting styrofoam for recycling. Tetley made arrangement to use the mail delivery truck to take the strofoam to the center, and with the help of a student worker, loaded it into the truck July 18, a day when the temperature was 104 degrees.

Styrofoam, the common name for Polystyrene, is a non-biodegradable material that doesn’t break down naturally, so options for reuse and recycling can also be limited. Most single stream or mixed recycling systems don’t accept styrofoam.

The EPC center uses a machine to remove the air from styrofoam products, compacting them into long logs which can used as building material. Styrofoam products are roughly 90 per cent air, so it can take up to a year to collect enough styrofoam (about 40,000 lbs.) to create one dense log.

EPC’s director of facilities Keith Ham estimates that Webster’s truckload could be enough to make a small log when compacted. Even though it can take a while to amass enough styrofoam to create a profitable log, recycling styrofoam not only saves money in trash pick-up costs. It also keeps the product out of landfills, an important way to demonstrate environmental responsibility.

Facilities plans to continue collecting and recycling styrofoam. Contact Justin Tetley at ext. 7420 or email him at justintetley25@webster.edu for information about how to handle recycling styrofoam you have on hand.

“It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us.” — Jackie Mutcheson, teacher

Compacted styrofoam logs


Styrofoam compacting machine

Category: St. Louis Campus News

Comments (1)

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  1. Tim Lumpkins says:

    It’s great that the university is starting to recycle Styrofoam now. Styrofoam used as packing material too often and pitching it doesn’t align well with our other sustainability efforts.

    The article mentioned that a student worker helped load the truck, but Spenser Lorance is actually a full-time staff member on the print team at Mail & Copy Solutions. He was the main person who helped load the truck in the 100+ heat and I think that he should be recognized for volunteering to help out.