Is Number 6 Plastic Recyclable?

Plastic waste is an enormous problem facing our planet today. Of the different types of plastics produced, one that many people have questions about is number 6 plastic. If you’ve ever held a disposable food container, plastic utensils, or Styrofoam cups and wondered if they can be recycled, you’re not alone.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Most curbside recycling programs do not accept number 6 plastic. However, some specialty recycling facilities can process Styrofoam and other polystyrene plastics coded as number 6.

What Is Number 6 Plastic?

Number 6 plastic, also known as polystyrene or PS, is a type of plastic commonly used in the packaging industry. It is lightweight, durable, and has excellent insulating properties. Polystyrene is made from styrene, a petroleum-based chemical, and is typically formed into foam or rigid plastic products.


Polystyrene, or Styrofoam as it is commonly referred to, is a versatile material that is used in a wide range of applications. It can be found in disposable foam cups and plates, packaging materials, insulation boards, and even in some building materials. Its lightweight nature makes it a popular choice for packing fragile items, while its insulating properties make it ideal for keeping hot beverages hot and cold beverages cold.

However, polystyrene is also known for being difficult to recycle. Due to its low density and lightweight nature, it can easily break apart and contaminate other recyclable materials. Additionally, the process of recycling polystyrene can be expensive and energy-intensive, which has led to limited recycling options for this type of plastic.

Common Household Items

Aside from disposable foam cups and plates, polystyrene can also be found in other common household items. Some examples include:

  • Takeout food containers
  • Meat trays
  • Egg cartons
  • CD cases
  • Insulation panels

While it is important to note that not all products labeled with a recycling symbol are actually recyclable, some recycling facilities do accept number 6 plastic. It is always best to check with your local recycling center to see if they accept this type of plastic.

It is also worth mentioning that there are alternative materials available that can be used in place of polystyrene. For example, some companies have started using biodegradable or compostable materials for food packaging, which can help reduce the environmental impact of disposable products.

Is Number 6 Plastic Recyclable Curbside?

Many people wonder if number 6 plastic, also known as polystyrene or Styrofoam, is recyclable curbside. The answer to this question varies depending on your location and local recycling facilities. While some areas may accept number 6 plastic for curbside recycling, others do not.

Limited Curbside Options

Unfortunately, number 6 plastic is not widely accepted for curbside recycling due to its composition and the challenges involved in recycling it. The lightweight nature of polystyrene makes it difficult to sort and process in recycling facilities. Additionally, the lack of demand for recycled number 6 plastic limits the number of recycling centers that accept it.

However, it is important to note that some municipalities and waste management companies have started to expand their recycling programs to include number 6 plastic. It’s worth checking with your local recycling center or waste management company to see if they accept it.

Downcycling vs Recycling

When number 6 plastic is not accepted for curbside recycling, it often ends up in the landfill. This is not ideal, as polystyrene is not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to break down.

However, there is an alternative to landfill disposal called downcycling. Downcycling involves converting the plastic into a lower-quality product. For example, number 6 plastic can be melted down and turned into plastic lumber or insulation materials. While downcycling is better than landfilling, it should be noted that the process still requires energy and resources.

It is important to reduce our consumption of number 6 plastic whenever possible. Opting for reusable alternatives and avoiding single-use polystyrene products can help minimize the environmental impact of this type of plastic.

Specialty Recycling for Number 6 Plastic

Number 6 plastic, also known as polystyrene, is commonly used for disposable food containers, coffee cups, and packaging materials. It is important to properly dispose of and recycle number 6 plastic to reduce waste and protect the environment. While not all recycling facilities accept number 6 plastic, there are specialty recycling options available.

EPS Recyclers

EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) recyclers specialize in recycling number 6 plastic foam, commonly known as Styrofoam. These recyclers have the technology and equipment to break down the foam into its original form, which can then be used to create new products. Some EPS recyclers offer drop-off locations, while others provide pick-up services for large quantities. To find a local EPS recycler near you, you can visit websites such as for more information.

Mail-In Options

If you do not have a local EPS recycler in your area, mail-in options are available for number 6 plastic recycling. There are companies that provide pre-paid shipping labels for you to send your number 6 plastic items to their recycling facilities. Once received, they will process the plastic and ensure it is recycled properly. This is a convenient option for individuals who want to recycle number 6 plastic but do not have access to nearby recycling facilities. One such company offering mail-in options is

Store Drop-Offs

Some stores and supermarkets have partnered with recycling programs to offer drop-off locations specifically for number 6 plastic. These programs collect number 6 plastic items from consumers and ensure they are properly recycled. It is always a good idea to check with your local stores to see if they participate in any recycling programs for number 6 plastic. This way, you can conveniently drop off your plastic items during your regular shopping trips and contribute to reducing plastic waste.

Remember, recycling number 6 plastic may not be as widely available as recycling other types of plastic, but specialty recycling options exist. By making use of EPS recyclers, mail-in options, or store drop-offs, you can ensure that your number 6 plastic is being recycled responsibly, helping to protect the environment and conserve valuable resources.

Alternatives to Recycling Number 6 Plastic

Avoid When Possible

While it’s true that number 6 plastic can be recycled, it’s important to note that not all recycling facilities accept it. Therefore, a great alternative to recycling number 6 plastic is to avoid using it altogether. Consider choosing products that come in alternative packaging materials such as glass, aluminum, or paper. By making conscious choices when shopping, you can reduce the amount of number 6 plastic waste generated.

Repurpose Items

If you find yourself with number 6 plastic items that cannot be recycled, don’t despair! There are numerous creative ways to repurpose these items instead of throwing them away. For example, you can use yogurt containers as plant pots, or cut them into strips to create handy storage containers for small items like office supplies or craft supplies. Get creative and think outside the box – the possibilities are endless!

Properly Dispose of Non-Recyclables

If you have number 6 plastic items that cannot be recycled or repurposed, it’s important to dispose of them properly. Check with your local waste management facility to see if they accept number 6 plastic for disposal. If not, it is best to throw them in the regular trash. Remember to always follow proper waste disposal guidelines to minimize environmental impact.


While number 6 plastics like Styrofoam are not accepted by most curbside recycling programs, there are some specialty recycling options available in certain areas. The best option is to avoid or minimize usage of these difficult-to-recycle materials when possible. With more consideration of the waste we generate and proper disposal habits, we can reduce the amount of plastic pollution that ends up in landfills and our environment.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top