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Pack it up! Styrofoam recycling collection day in Grafton.

Byline: Bill Fortier

GRAFTON - In most communities in Central Massachusetts and the state, the only way to get rid of polystyrene, known more commonly as Styrofoam, is to throw it in the trash, which eventually ends up in landfills.

Environmentalists say the problem with that is Styrofoam takes up a lot of space in landfills and can take several hundred years to biodegrade.

Several communities in the state and Rhode Island are trying to tackle the problem by having Styrofoam recycling days.

Residents in Grafton will hold their third recycling day from 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 28 behind the municipal center, according to Stephanie Collins-Rankin, chairwoman of the town's recycling committee.

"We're excited about it," she said. "We're looking for a big turnout."

At the town's first Styrofoam collection day in January, 30 to 40 cars dropped off about 400 pounds of Styrofoam collected by KWD Inc. in North Smithfield, R.I. According to owner and Grafton resident Ronald Kollross, KWD is the only Styrofoam recycler in the country.

Styrofoam collected by KWD in Grafton eventually becomes part of blocks measuring 16 inches by 14 inches by 48 inches, and those blocks are eventually trucked away to

processing plants in the South and Midwest, where the material is converted into picture frames, door trim and car bumpers. Meanwhile, the peanut-shaped Styrofoam packing material, found in boxes for such things as televisions and computers, is taken to outlets such as UPS, which use them in containers shipped around the country.

Mr. Kollross said KWD is hoping to make items from recycled Styrofoam as soon as next year.

Former Recycling Committee Chairwoman Ellen M. Dowling said another Styrofoam collection day held in April also brought in a considerable amount of the material, which is a product that most communities in the state do not recycle. Auburn, for example, doesn't accept Styrofoam in its recycling program, although Director of Public Health Andrew R. Pelletier said he is thinking about discussing the matter with the Board of Health.

"The first two have gone excellently," Mrs. Dowling said of Grafton's Styrofoam collection days. "The first one we had was really good because we had never had one before."

Ms. Collins-Rankin started researching a Styrofoam collection day last October when she went to the first collection day sponsored by Grace Congregational Church, 76 Salem End Road, Framingham, which will be holding its fifth event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 23.

The Framingham event was started by church members Barbara J. Sherman and her husband, David R. Sherman, who started ReFoamIt LLC about a year ago to collect Styrofoam, which is brought to KWD and melded with material collected by the Rhode Island firm.

Mrs. Sherman said yesterday the church has always sought ways to be environmentally friendly and the Styrofoam collection day was one way to do that.

She said word of the first event made its way throughout Central Massachusetts and she got e-mails asking about it from as far away as California.

"One man came from Leominster and his van was filled," she said, adding that he wanted to bring some family members, but he didn't have room for them because the van was filled with Styrofoam.

Ms. Collins-Rankin said people who have gone to Grafton's first two Styrofoam collection days are thrilled to be able to be able to get rid of their Styrofoam.

"People were just so thankful, a lot of people have thanked us for having them," she said.

One Grafton man told Mrs. Dowling he had been keeping Styrofoam in his attic for about 15 years and he arrived at the January event with a Honda van packed to its roof with Styrofoam.

Sutton is among the communities that tell residents on its website to contact ReFoamIt or KWD if they want to get rid of their Styrofoam. Mr. Kollross said his company has reached agreements with several school systems across the state, beginning with the upcoming school year, to ship Styrofoam from their lunch programs to the Rhode Island firm.

Styrofoam collected by ReFoamIt cannot contain tape or labels and it must be clean, which are the requirements of Styrofoam collected in Grafton, Ms. Collins-Rankin said.

Mrs. Sherman said anybody who wants to organize a collection date or have a Dumpster where the material can be dropped off may contact ReFoamIt at its website, www.refoamit.com.

Gregory S. Cooper, director of consumer programs for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the Styrofoam collection days are something the state agency likes to see. He said he is not aware of any communities in the state that collect Styrofoam in their regularly scheduled curbside recycling program.

Mr. Cooper said one reason for that is that Styrofoam crumbles easily and is difficult to separate from other recyclables. The state is encouraging the use of packaging materials made out of corn starch, instead of Styrofoam, that biodegrade and could be put, for example, in a backyard compost pile.

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Ronald Kollross of Grafton, owner of KWD Inc. in North Smithfield, R.I., stands next to 2,200-pound bags of expandable polystyrene beads at the KWD warehouse yesterday. (2) KWD Inc. recycles polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, and processes the material into blocks measuring 16 inches by 14 inches by 48 inches. (3) Jose Rijos tosses Styrofoam packaging into a pre-crusher at KWD Inc. in North Smithfield, R.I.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 6, 2010
Words:912
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