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any use for a bunch of styrofoam?

 
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I have several contractor bags full of styrofoam. I wish I didn't.  Big and medium sized pieces. I thought I would figure out how to recycle them, but it seems like the resources it would take to get them to a place where they probably wouldn't really be recycled anyway are rather absurd. Can it be used for anything? Insulation? Any ideas and thoughts welcome.
 
steward & bricolagier
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Depending on what they are shaped like, yes they can insulate things. Styrofoam is not a good thing, but it's a thing that is around and free and so I use it. If it is covered well to keep it from sunlight and air flow, and to constrain the breakdown, it's useful for a while. Which, in my eyes, is better than letting it be trash immediately, I consider reusing better than the landfill, which are the options here.

The trick is to cover it well. Depending on what you are doing there are many ways to do that. Put some thought into it from that angle, and see what you come up with.

I'm currently in a rental with serious draft issues, and I'm putting sheets of styrofoam on wall sections that are the worst offenders, and covering them with strong fabric, or pieces of linoleum type flooring. We had a storm the other day, and I checked the areas that are done, and they are working well. Not the best solution in the world, but what I can do with what I have available that I can afford. My cash outlay on this project has been the price of fasteners, that's it. And if it cuts the heating bills this year, it's worth it.
 
pollinator
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Insulation is the only thing I would use it for. Like Pearl says though, cover it well. In addition to it breaking down in UV, etc., around here we have wasps that burrow into it to nest. Wouldn't be surprised if there are other bugs that get into it as well.
 
pollinator
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it is commonly used as floats for aquaculture planting. not sure what drawbacks there would be, as i have no firsthand experience though...
 
gardener
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Some options that come to mind:
1) As others have said, insulation (maybe chop up and mix it in with attic insulation if it's too small for anything else.
2) Can be used as a concrete additive to provide insulation and make it lighter weight.  (I believe https://www.youtube.com/c/AircreteHarry]Aircrete[/youtube]  Harry uses it in his "epic" mix)
3) Can be melted down with acetone and poured into sand to get a realistic artificial skin texture.  I've heard of this being used to cover prosthetics in 3rd world countries (eg making a wooden hand or leg seem more realistic).  If you're into halloween you could make some scary stuff too, I'm sure.
4) Can be glued up and carved into shapes using a simple https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GWzHb4Hd8Y]hot-wire[/youtube]  foam cutter for making diorama/model railroad scenery. (example)
5) Similar to 4, you can make a shape, place into a sand mold, and cast your own metal parts!  (Google for "lost foam casting") (example)
 
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Someone on here posted about making a strong glue from styrofoam and acetone.
I am considering styro-concrete for the rear of my greenhouse.
I like the idea because it would be trapped.
Loose beads of styrofoam would ended up in the soil in 20 years, when my creations are torn down.
 
pollinator
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I have used polystyrene dissolved to make a really strong "glue" for various repairs. It worked particularly well repairing my poly bee hives, as the solvent partially dissolved the contact surface and made for a really strong bond. I didn't have acetone, so use a small amount of petrol. Less than ideal, but it worked really well and was left outdoors to vent for a few weeks before painting over.

I can see it being used to make other repairs, or even with a mould to make small solid items.
 
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It's really really good for table top game terrain crafting. Especially the insulation foam which is usually pink or green, as opposed to white.

If you know any avid dungeons and dragons game masters or wargamers ask if they're interested.
 
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Stacking the foam and gluing the layers together allows you to make a large 3D carvable block that can be used for sculptural armatures. The dried form can be a utilitarian object, like an ottoman or a platform bed, or something artistic like a sculpture or bathroom mirror frame. Once carved, the object must be covered with fabric as in the fireplace project below, or foil leaf sheets (I have made picture frames using this method) or fiberglass.
Today I am making a new removable fireplace opening cover. The pillow in the kiva-style fireplace looked kind of shabby so I'm reworking the plug and facing. If I had some of that foam board, I would glue them into a 2' x 2' x 6" thick board, somewhat larger than the opening. I would then sculpt the jagged edge with a long bladed knife to fit the curvy fireplace opening.
Because I don't have any styrofoam scraps, I'm making the thick board by gluing cardboard layers and spacers for air. A carvable foam block would be so much easier! The decorative cover, in either case, comes from a funky old canvas apron sourced at the thrift.
 
pollinator
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Hi,

Google local recycling plants for Styrofoam, My brother working installing electronic products and his company recycles it at a local site where it get turned into materials to make building pads!
 
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In the US, there are not many recycling facilities for Styrofoam unfortunately.  I researched it a long while back and essentially, it takes a LOT of styrofoam to justify recycling.  And I mean a LOT.  

Figure basic styrofoam weighs about 50 Kg / cubic meter.  It would take 21 cubic meters of styrofoam to make 1 cubic meter of reprocessed polystyrene.  So a full 53' semi-truckload of styrofoam would be about 98 cubic meters (if 100% optimized, unlikely) and would result in just 4.7 cubic meters of reprocessed polystyrene.  Factor in the freight and processing costs and unless you have a very streamlined setup with a steady supply of styrofoam to feed into the system, it's just not economical.

The better option is to petition for manufacturers to stop using styrofoam and use other, more substainable packaging materials.  Cardboard inserts can be just as effective and are much more readily recyclable and is much more sustainable.
 
steward
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:it is commonly used as floats for aquaculture planting. not sure what drawbacks there would be, as i have no firsthand experience though...



I would reconsider using Styrofoam for aquaculture . There is so much of it in the oceans/beaches. Ducks seem to get into it.


In all honesty i would suggest not using it in water at all.

Wood floats, i am sure there are other ways to float plants....

 
pollinator
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Quick project involving styrofoam: draft snakes! One can use some used fabric in a long tube shape (like an old pant leg) filled with styrofoam placed against the opening under doors, to block drafts under the door when trying to keep a space well-heated. Just another idea to add to the pot- doesn't necessarily have to be a very complicated idea to provide some insulation help.
 
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I've used scrap styrofoam to make homemade egg incubators for poultry -- if you were able to do something like that, even if you weren't wanting to use it yourself, would it be possible to sell it to other like-minded people looking for a nicely built incubator at a profit to yourself?  Professional incubators are PRICEY and can be built much cheaper, but well-done DIY incubators are rarely for sale.    Just one idea!  
 
pollinator
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jordan barton wrote:

Dustin Rhodes wrote:it is commonly used as floats for aquaculture planting. not sure what drawbacks there would be, as i have no firsthand experience though...



I would reconsider using Styrofoam for aquaculture . There is so much of it in the oceans/beaches. Ducks seem to get into it.


In all honesty i would suggest not using it in water at all.

Wood floats, i am sure there are other ways to float plants....



Ya, this. It is a TERRIBLE pollutant used raw in floats.

It can be coated somehow, I do not know the details.. maybe in an application where monitoring is easy it would be ok.. maybe.

It is insulative but also pretty combustible..
 
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K Eilander wrote:Some options that come to mind:
1) As others have said, insulation (maybe chop up and mix it in with attic insulation if it's too small for anything else.
2) Can be used as a concrete additive to provide insulation and make it lighter weight.  (I believe Aircrete Harry uses it in his "epic" mix)
3) Can be melted down with acetone and poured into sand to get a realistic artificial skin texture.  I've heard of this being used to cover prosthetics in 3rd world countries (eg making a wooden hand or leg seem more realistic).  If you're into halloween you could make some scary stuff too, I'm sure.
4) Can be glued up and carved into shapes using a simple hot-wire foam cutter for making diorama/model railroad scenery. (example)
5) Similar to 4, you can make a shape, place into a sand mold, and cast your own metal parts!  (Google for "lost foam casting") (example)



EPS can be ground up and mixed with papercrete to make a fast drying structural insulation I named EPIC. (EPS + Paper Infused with Cement)
That was in 2010, I have been testing this material for about 12 years now.
I taught Harry and a class he put together how to make EPIC in 2019, and I will be teaching more classes soon if anyone is interested.
 
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The suggestions above for re-use (especially for insulation) are probably the best option, but there's one kinda weird use-case - albeit one more suited to a situation where you have a continuous flow of material to get rid of - feed it to mealworms.

They have a combination of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes that can break down, digest and metabolize polystyrene. Their droppings can be used as fertilizer, much like worm castings, and the mealworms themselves are technically edible. Myself I don't think I could get past the "eww" factor of that, but they make a nice high-protein feed for chickens, ducks or fish.
 
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That article is from 2015... how did I not hear of this before.  We don't have enough Styrofoam coming into the house to do a large scale test of this, but it's just screaming to be a kids science fair project.
 
Mike Fullerton
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Casie Becker wrote:That article is from 2015... how did I not hear of this before.  We don't have enough Styrofoam coming into the house to do a large scale test of this, but it's just screaming to be a kids science fair project.


I know, right? It's almost like a kind of permie alchemy. Transform styrofoam into farm-fresh eggs just by passing it through mealworms and then chickens! And both of those stages also output garden fertilizer in the form of two different kinds of poo!

The wikipedia page notes that no attempt at commercialization has been made, which is kind of a shame, since this would be a perfect add-on to any local recycling depot. Maybe not commercialzed as much as run the way a lot of municipal compost programs are. Around here everyone drops off their garden waste at the compost facility and you can get bags of free compost every spring if you want. I'd picture the same thing with styrofoam and mealworms to feed backyard chickens or farmed fish.

There's also a larger, similar species, "superworms" that can reportedly do the same thing.
 
pollinator
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Our basement is built out of 12” block with a 8” sill, so I have a small opening at the top of the block.  We are slowly filling our walls with styrofoam packaging that we break into small pieces while watching TV. I blend it and cap it with perlite.
 
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My friend Eddy Garcia was experimenting with biodegrading  EPS surfboard foam with meal worms as they will eat it. He used a larger variety of worm (super worm) to get the best results. When they eat it they poop it out and it looks like termite poop. Then he would compost the poop and create soil and grow plants in it as a test. It was incredible. I've been in the eco surf niche for over a decade and this was a huge find.

I also had used a lot of EPS surfboard foam and packing to insulate a small room in a barn as a sleeping cabin. It works great. It's 60 f in the room while it's 28 f outside.  That worked because the floor was concrete and I left it like that. The concrete held a constant temp and warms and cools the room.  Go passive AC!


 
pollinator
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Daniel Arsenault wrote:I have several contractor bags full of styrofoam. I wish I didn't.  Big and medium sized pieces. I thought I would figure out how to recycle them, but it seems like the resources it would take to get them to a place where they probably wouldn't really be recycled anyway are rather absurd. Can it be used for anything? Insulation? Any ideas and thoughts welcome.




I take it they are not the starch based packing material. I wish more contractors used those.
Since you must have the other kind, I'll suggest chipping them and reusing them when you ship something. It is limited, but then, you'll never have to buy packing material. Here is a site that talks about what you can do with either the starch based or the Styrofoam based. [I didn't know but the Styrofoam will dissolve in acetone]. Fine, but then, what do you do with *that*!
https://www.thefiltery.com/are-packing-peanuts-edible-recyclable-biodegradable-dissolvable/#:~:text=Although%20in%20small%20doses%2C%20styrofoam,made%20is%20a%20suspected%20carcinogen.

Another solution, if we can is to do business only with folks who use edible packaging, and here is a link for that.
https://www.ventureradar.com/keyword/Edible%20packaging

Finally, this person had a plan to use Styrofoam, which is really [b]polystyrene as insulation[/b]. The off gassing made his eyes water and he fainted once, so... Maybe not. Once the building is sealed, however, it should be fine.
https://greenpassivesolar.com/2012/11/how-styrofoam-can-be-recycled/#:~:text=Styrofoam%20is%20also%20a%20material%20that%20has%20great%20insulating%20properties.

 
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Ed Lewis wrote:



My friend Eddy Garcia was experimenting with biodegrading  EPS surfboard foam with meal worms as they will eat it. He used a larger variety of worm (super worm) to get the best results. When they eat it they poop it out and it looks like termite poop. Then he would compost the poop and create soil and grow plants in it as a test. It was incredible. I've been in the eco surf niche for over a decade and this was a huge find.

I also had used a lot of EPS surfboard foam and packing to insulate a small room in a barn as a sleeping cabin. It works great. It's 60 f in the room while it's 28 f outside.  That worked because the floor was concrete and I left it like that. The concrete held a constant temp and warms and cools the room.  Go passive AC!




I’ve been adding little pieces of styrofoam to feed my mealworms. They sure eat them, very slowly. But I have a tiny mealworm farm.
image.jpg
My Mealworm farm
My Mealworm farm
 
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I recently bought a chest freezer.  It came boxed in styrofoam sheets.  
To cover it I am using cement, lime, and sand wet enough to paint on in several layers.
The sheets I plan to use in the construction of a new coop and pen.  

Wish me luck I watched a guy do it on youtube.   Philippians I think.  
Now I know why he took the time to cover it,  Not looks but preservation.   Awesome.
 
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PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT BURN OR TRY TO DISSOLVE STYROFOAM AS THOSE PROCESSES ARE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH AND WELL BEING!

This is from someone who worked in a 'plastics lab' for several years and handled many different types of materials and chemicals!

Fumes from either process are very toxic and even the chemicals that dissolve it are extremely dangerous as well both due to the fumes and the flammability of those chemicals.

Put it your trash cans and let the local utilities pick it up on their rounds.
IF you are not on a system like that, take it to the nearest recycling center.

IF all else fails, take to friends or relatives who are on utilities pick up routes, where you can dispose of the Styrofoam in their garbage cans.

People - be aware that some chemicals are just as dangerous, maybe even more so, than taking illegal drugs. And, some will remain in your body for life and the longer it is in your body the more it can affect your immune system.
 
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Back when I got my land and bought a manufactured home and build a garage I was pretty poor. A friend asked me is I wanted some Styrofoam, I said sure I can use it to insulate my new garage. there were two  thicknesses one was about 2 inches  and the other was about 1/2 inch. They were in 4" X 8" sheets. I cut up the thicker ones and put them in between the tresses and  the wall studs. then once I had the space filled I put the 1/2 sheets over the top on that. I figured I would  use it awhile and then later get new insulation, 20 years later it is still there and still works, even cut up pieces and put them in the garage door. there are places that the cold/heat still can come in but it has really done a good job and it was free. I had not thought about covering it with something as several people suggested. I have had very little issues with it, did get some mice that came in by the back door and made a nest but that was a one time thing and now I make sure that back door is always shut. I don't buy anything Styrofoam if I can help it and know it is a real issue in the oceans, but I felt like this was a good use of it and so far its holding up and doing a good job of keeping things from freezing in the winter.
 
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Suzanne Miller wrote:Check this out:

https://www.1001pallets.com/diy-video-tutorial-homemade-lacquer-saves-money/?utm_source=mailpoet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Weekly+Newsletter



For years I have been using limonene, which is derived from citrus peels and used in a lot of cleaning products, to dissolve the styrofoam.  It's sort of pricey, but it goes a very long way.  

If you use the food-grade limonene you get a syrupy-like substance.  I use it like varnish to seal things.  Works best on porous stuff like concrete, wood and paper.  If you use the tech-grade limonene, you get more of a slime-like goo.  A huge amount of styrofoam can be melted down into a quart mason jar.  I've even taking to liberating sheets I find at the recycling center to use, since they don't recycle it & just send it to the landfill around here.

I've also poured both the tech and food grade mixtures into square muffin tins and made tiles, but it takes a very very long time to harden, like months.  Acetone off gasses and leaves a hard residue much quicker, but I haven't been able to make it smooth like the limonene.  It usually ends up holey, plus it stinks to high heaven.   The limonene doesn't.

These are a few of my favorite tiles.  They're made from the tech-grade with different colors (from the styrofoam trays used to package meat) mixed together.  Thinking of either insetting them into my future cob house walls or cutting them up into pendants or something 🙂
DSCN0308.JPG
Styrofoam tiles
Styrofoam tiles
 
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You can use pieces of styrofoam to insulate a solar oven. Find designs at the Solar Cooking Wiki on Fandom. (It's a great website, check it out anyway).
They're made with aluminum foil, cardboard boxes, a glass pane. Use styrofoam between the boxes to retain the heat.
https://solarcooking.fandom.com/wiki/Principles_of_Solar_Box_Cooker_Design
 
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Daniel Arsenault wrote:I have several contractor bags full of styrofoam. I wish I didn't.  Big and medium sized pieces. I thought I would figure out how to recycle them, but it seems like the resources it would take to get them to a place where they probably wouldn't really be recycled anyway are rather absurd. Can it be used for anything? Insulation? Any ideas and thoughts welcome.



Good news is meal worms can break the stuff down, so any pieces you dont find a reuse for can be used to grow mealworms and those could be sold to people with birds or reptiles.
 
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This guy is amazing. He uses styrofoam to make habitat infrastructure, from ponds to fences to…

https://youtu.be/IpVDPxT1xH4

And he has tons of videos on different applications.

 
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Here is a guy that was using it for building materials:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27v7Oq-q9xs

I am not sure I would want to feed mealworms that have spent their life eating styrofoam to anything.  I might be wrong, but what is the halflife of the foam and all its additives?  Just say'n there is such a thing as forever chemicals, and getting it into the food chain.
 
Robin Wild
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Ebo David wrote: I am not sure I would want to feed mealworms that have spent their life eating styrofoam to anything.  I might be wrong, but what is the halflife of the foam and all its additives?  Just say'n there is such a thing as forever chemicals, and getting it into the food chain.



Apparently it does fully break down, there is a little more research into this then there used to be. https://news.wsu.edu/news/2020/08/25/styrofoam-eating-mealworms-safe-dinner/
 
Ebo David
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Interesting.  I will look forward to seeing other follow on research -- I think this is a very good, but using an "infrared" analysis is hardly sufficient to trust it to be integrated into the food chain.  I look forward to someone grinding them up and searching for various toxic byproducts as well.

Thank you for the post!
 
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OMG I swear every time I get one here something blows my mind. Worms eating Styrofoam exploded me today!!! Whaaaaaat??? That is so cool.
We need to apply for a few extra lifetimes to explore all this stuff. Wow. Thanks for the inspiration. Amazing.
 
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I ground up trash styro using a DIY shredder. Don't do it inside tho! Coated the beads with white glue and packed it into a waxed form. The resulting 'brick' spanned the roof rafters with a small gap at the bottom of the cavity to bleed moisture. Still up there in the attic and works.

The downsides. Its labor intensive but if you have more time than money it works. Its messy, the low density of the beads fly everywhere. I suspect it won't work in large spans without reinforcement, the glue is the only thing holding it together.
 
Ebo David
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Yep.  If nothing else they can be used to clean up landfills (or the wastestream coming into them).  At best it would provide a feedstock for chickens and other critters.  I would want to make sure that they are not full of forever-chemicals before being used for a feedstock, but this is promising.

I also agree about the extra lifetimes...  Once I get around all of the doom and gloom and HYPED HATRED, I find something truly wonderful like this and the ClickSpring YouTube channel...
 
Ebo David
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John, the video I pointed to is of a guy that used cement instead of glue, but did much the same thing but was strong enough to support the roof.  If you dig around in his channel, he designed and built a grinder that did not make to much a mess (the third time around ;-)

I really hope that I can make use of this.
 
A "dutch baby" is not a baby. But this tiny ad is baby sized:
Work Trade for the 2023 Garden Master Course
https://permies.com/wiki/190487/permaculture-projects/Work-Trade-Garden-Master
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