Mecklenburg County Expands Recovery of Foam Polystyrene to All Full-Service Recycling Centers

Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, is taking the next step in growing the county’s recycling program with the help of a $50,000 grant from the Foodservice Packaging Institute’s (FPI) Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC). The county has informed residents that it is now collecting post-consumer foam polystyrene (PS), including foodservice packaging, at all four of its full-service recycling centers.

The FRC grant assisted with funding the purchase and installation of a foam densifier at one of its four recycling centers as part of the program launch for foam PS recycling. Densifiers are used to compact foam products, like cups, egg cartons, foodservice containers and packaging materials, into foam blocks or ingots. The county plans to sell the foam ingots to local end markets to be manufactured into architectural moldings and picture frames.

“The county’s full-service recycling centers have seen customer counts increase 51% from 2019 to 2022 – driving our efforts to expand our recycling infrastructure and identify new recycling and waste diversion opportunities,” said Jeff Smithberger, Mecklenburg County Solid Waste Director. “The demand for foam polystyrene recycling and availability of end markets has created a viable opportunity to launch a new recycling program with help from the FRC grant.”

The foam recycling program will provide ongoing data on potential expansion to include more collection sites. The county has collected more than 70 30-yard dumpsters (over 10,000 lbs.) since the collection program kicked off on November 28, 2022. Since then, the county has added a second densifier, at the Tire and Metal Recovery Facility to handle the volume.
“Mecklenburg County’s solid waste division, serving over 1 million residents, is continuously testing and providing new opportunities to recover and divert valuable materials from the landfill,” said Natha Dempsey, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, which oversees FRC. “FPI and the Foam Recycling Coalition are excited to be a part of the pilot program to increase recycling of polystyrene foam.”

The grant is made possible through contributions to FRC, which focuses exclusively on increased recycling of post-consumer foam polystyrene. Its members include Americas Styrenics; Chick-fil-A; CKF Inc.; Dart Container Corp.; Dolco; Dyne-A-Pak; Genpak; INEOS Styrolution America LLC; Lifoam Industries, LLC; Pactiv Evergreen; and Republic Plastics.

Mecklenburg County is the 28th grant recipient to receive this funding since 2015. Over 8 million additional residents in the U.S. and Canada can recycle foam polystyrene as a result of FRC grants. Visit to learn more about foam recycling, read about previous recipients or apply for a grant.