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posted: 9/29/2021 1:00 AM

Editorial: Yes, it is recyclable. Lake Zurich now recycling polystyrene, and others should follow suit.

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  • Lake Zurich's polystyrene recycling program volunteer Carmen Colella, left, looks over the collection with Kyle Kordell, assistant to the village manager.

    Lake Zurich's polystyrene recycling program volunteer Carmen Colella, left, looks over the collection with Kyle Kordell, assistant to the village manager.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It's happened to all of us.

You buy a new home appliance or a TV, and no matter how small your purchase, the blocks of white foam that kept it safe in travel need to go somewhere.

With a new coffee maker, you can fill a garbage can with Styrofoam. With a new big screen for the Super Bowl, you'll be filling your garbage can each week until spring.

Too bad you can't put it in your recycling bin.

"People don't know what to do with it," Walter Willis, executive director of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, told our Mick Zawislak for a story in Monday's newspaper.

Recognizing this, the village decided to test out a program to allow residents to drop off their foam blocks at a collection container.

And it's been a smashing success.

Polystyrene pellets are used to form the white foam blocks that just about anything gets packed in these days. But most recycling plants can't process it so they don't want it.

Those of us who know it is recyclable feel guilty -- in addition to being annoyed -- about putting it in our garbage cans.

Village Trustee Marc Spacone recommended the village try out a polystyrene recycling program after he spent some time of his own cutting up boxes and chunks of white foam at home.

"I'm always trying to think how we can be more ecologically friendly," he told Zawislak.

Highland Park has been doing this since 2015, but Lake Zurich officials wanted to dip their toe in the water.

For now, a 22-foot storage container sits in the parking lot at the American Legion hall downtown, and a volunteer opens the container for a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings. It was expanded recently to include Saturday mornings. The filled containers are shipped to a facility in North Aurora.

The best part is there no cost associated with it.

A 2016 study by St. Louis University noted that at that time, the United States produced 6 billion pounds of polystyrene packaging each year. It should come as no surprise 30 percent of landfills are taken up by it.

Recycled polystyrene cannot be used for food and drink containers, but it can be used in the manufacture of such things as lawn furniture, window frames, roofing material, pens, coat hangers and, yes, more packaging material.

With the right kind of marketing, perhaps one day we'll look upon polystyrene as we do newspapers, cardboard and aluminum cans -- items many of us are loath to throw in the garbage.

What a great public service it would be -- and a great service to our environment -- if municipalities in Cook, DuPage, Kane, McHenry and Will counties were to follow suit.