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Foam Recycling in Greensboro, NC

A Home for Foam


On November 12, 2020, Tiny House Community Development started Styrofoam™ recycling (#6 polystyrene foam) in Greensboro, NC. Foam recycling starts with a densification machine which turns the foam into ignots and then is sold to recycle vendors.

This project represents a collaborative effort between four non-profit organizations:
Emerging Ecology, Environmental Stewardship Greensboro, Greensboro Beautiful, and Tiny House Community
Development (THCD).

We are no longer collecting Styrofoam at 1310 West Gate City Blvd. in Greensboro. Visit us right down the street on the same side at 360 West Gate City Blvd. in Greensboro. Or please donate at one of the locations listed in our Current Drop-Off Locations list to the right of this column.

Thank you for your support!

Accepting Foam- all colors; Cardboard; Plastic Bags &

Plastic Film

Current Drop-Off Locations:

First United Methodist Church

1630 Westbrook Ave, Elon

Tiny House Community Hope Center: 

360 West Gate City Blvd, Greensboro

Reconsidered Goods

4118 Spring Garden St, Greensboro

Faith Presbyterian

6309 W. Friendly Ave, Greensboro

First Presbyterian

617 N. Elm St, Greensboro

First Lutheran Church

6300 W. Friendly Ave, Greensboro

Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Library

1420 Prince Park Dr, Greensboro

Irving Park United Methodist Church

1510 West Cone Blvd, Greensboro

Alamance Presbyterian Church

4000 Presbyterian Road, Greensboro

High Point Public Library

901 N. Main St, High Point

Ingleside Landfill

3001 Ingleside Dr, High Point

Foam drop-off bins, signage, and the fir

Residents and institutions with foam can use the two drop-off bins conveniently located behind the THCD facility. Street signs indicate where to turn off W. Gate City Blvd. using the marked driveway between the two buildings. This center accepts both clean food service
containers – cups, egg cartons, and take-out boxes – as well as packaging materials used for coolers and shipping fragile products.
Materials placed in the bins are densified into ingots, which can be manufactured into a variety of materials. The drop-off location is open 24/7 and is monitored and emptied regularly by the THCD staff and volunteers.

The foam (1) densification process produces ingots that are in a variety of useful products. Foam material is crushed, heated, extruded, and formed into ingots (2). Manufacturers grind the ingots into small pieces and mix them with specific additives. This mixture is heated again and extruded into materials that create picture frames, molding, and other building materials (3). The densification process in Greensboro uses a RecycleTech XT200E machine to pulverize, heat, and extrude raw material delivered to the drop-off location.

From foam to frame

The Process

1. Verify that the material is clean and free from tape and labels.

2. Feed the material into the densifier. The foam is ground up, heated, and extruded.

3. Shape the extruded material into manageable bricklike ingots.

The ingots are then stacked on shipping pallets for shipping to manufacturers who will start the material on its next journey of usefulness.

The Process
Step 2: Grinding
Step 3: Guiding the extruded material in

Disposal Dilemmas

Foam plays many important roles in the foodservice industry, it keeps other materials at specific temperatures, and it prevents damage during shipping. However, used foam materials have long been problematic for recycling efforts.


In Greensboro’s single-stream recycling program, the material is unacceptable. Foam is also very light and the City pays for waste disposal by the ton, so it’s not inherently expensive for municipalities to dispose of. However, the foam takes up considerable space in landfills and deteriorates very slowly. Landfill regulations determine how big one can be, not how heavy. Thus, the size of foam products results in less landfill life. Decreasing landfill space is concerning because North Carolina only has room to landfill waste for approximately 40 more years at currently permitted facilities – and residents of any municipality will often fiercely fight the construction of new landfills near them.

Even More Environmental Benefits

Since foam begins as a petrochemical product, reducing the amount of fuel-based products created is another added benefit. Lastly, since foam is 95% air, shipping it to distant facilities requires time, energy and fuel which make the
transportation process unfeasible. These factors heighten the urgency to create localized densification of polystyrene foam.

A pallet of expanded foam products weighs the same as the ingot of densified material you see next to it. This photo provides a clear example of the effectiveness of the densification process as a way to divert foam from landfills.

One ingot vs. a pallet of foam of the sa

The Foam Puzzle

The process for densifying foam works simply and clear benefits are gained by removing it from the waste stream. Nonetheless, the task of fitting together the various pieces in Greensboro has involved many players over several years.

In 2007, several faith-based congregations, inspired by the eco-theologian Thomas Berry, a Greensboro native, began to meet together to determine ways they could embody responsible ecological stewardship. They organized themselves into a group called Environmental Stewardship Greensboro (ESG) and began collecting foam from members of their congregations. In 2011, the team was proud to have a car full of material to take to a processing facility in Randleman, NC, approximately 25 miles from the heart of Greensboro.

A Roadmap to Recycling

As the years passed and the congregations began
collecting greater volumes of foam, ESG began looking
for partners to establish a permanent recycling system
in Greensboro. ESG identified several factors required to
recycle foam locally:
1. A location and volunteers to collect clean, raw
material from residents and local institutions

2. A densifier to create ingots that are more
valuable than expanded foam

3. Staff to process the material

4. Fundraising expertise and tax-exempt status for
donations to expedite the initial financing

ESG also recognized the substantial capital required to
launch the project and that these initial costs were
unlikely to be recovered from the sale of the densified
ingots for a reasonable return on investment.

The original foam load, 2011

Better Together

Eventually, Greensboro Beautiful, Inc., Emerging Ecology, Environmental Stewardship Greensboro, and Tiny House Community Development agreed to work together to bring foam recycling to the community. The energetic staff of the City of Greensboro Field Operations Department, who have extensive contacts throughout the recycling industry, supported these four non-profit organizations by providing introductions, guidance and assistance with marketing materials and signage.

A grant from the Foodservice Packaging Institute’s Foam Recycling Coalition combined with a large gift from Greensboro Beautiful enabled the project to fund the purchase of equipment and materials. In addition to the two grants, donations from 27 individuals and 6 congregations provided the capital to launch the project.

Launch of Greensboro's foam recycling pr

Amid the Covid-19 restrictions of 2020, the Greensboro Foam Recycling Project launched in the warehouse facility of THCD. Volunteers are being organized to sort the material into food service products and industrial packaging materials and will also assist the THCD staff when operating the densifier and handling the ingots.
Background information about the project, ways to provide additional donations, as well as practical ways for getting personally involved in the project are available at

Screenshot 2020

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