Thanks to a generous volunteer, you can now recycle Styrofoam at UUFR

By Russ Outcalt, Michele Hutchins and Hoke Kimball, Environmental Justice Ministry Team

Good news for anyone who’s felt a pang of guilt when tossing out their Styrofoam takeout container, or filled an entire garbage can with the foam packaging from a single box: You can now recycle your Styrofoam in the UUFR parking lot.

This is no small development, considering that North Carolina only has a single Styrofoam recycling facility, and it’s well over an hour’s drive away at the DART Center in Randleman, NC. But one generous member has agreed to deliver all of UUFR’s Styrofoam waste.

UUFR Member Michele Hutchins
UUFR Member Michele Hutchins, Styrofoam recycler extraordinaire

Michele Hutchins was part of a UU congregation in Greensboro, where a kind volunteer regularly hauled the congregation’s foam to the nearby recycling facility. Now, she lives in Fuquay-Varina but still returns to area to visit family and friends, and to drop off her recycling. Now that she’s a part of UUFR’s Environmental Justice Ministry Team, she decided to pass that kindness on and begin hauling UUFR’s Styrofoam along with her own.

Michele has a husband, Mike Santoro, and two children who are also UUFR members. She says, “We are grateful to belong to a community committed to not only caring for each other and our environment, but one that believes those warm fuzzy feelings result in taking concrete actions to produce a more kind and just world.”

We should still try to avoid Styrofoam when possible. It’s not good for the environment, even when recycled. But when you can’t avoid it, here’s how to recycle your Styrofoam at UUFR.

Look for the #6 recycling symbol ( ♸), rinse off any food debris, and drop it into one of the plastic tubs in UUFR’s back parking lot (right near the compost and recycling bins). Packing peanuts and foam inserts are not accepted.

Thanks to Michele, this is now a simple step we can take to live out our UU values and leave a habitable planet for our children and theirs.

Why should I recycle my Styrofoam?

While there have been recent setbacks in the global recycling system, it’s is still an important tactic for pollution control, maintaining a beautiful outdoors, and fighting climate change. However, there is one common waste stream that we typically can’t recycle – Styrofoam.

Styrofoam is not included in curbside recycling programs because it’s too difficult to transport and too costly to recycle. It’s 95 percent air, so you don’t end up with much usable material at the end of the process.

As a result, this ubiquitous plastic takes up almost 30 percent of our landfill space, where it takes 500 years to degrade. Like other plastics, its persistence poses a great threat to wildlife and the environment. It can break down into small particles which can be consumed by wildlife and fish. If you have to use Styrofoam, it’s far better to recycle it than to throw it away.

Here’s where to put your clean foam. Look for these bins in the alcove in the back parking lot:

READ MORE ON THE SOCIAL JUSTICE BLOG