Is Thermocol Recyclable? (And Biodegradable?)

We use thermocol across diverse industries. Manufacturers in the medicine and refrigeration industry rely heavily on it because of its high density. We can use it for various purposes, such as packaging fragile items or providing insulation for roofs, walls, and the floors of buildings.

Now, you may wonder if the consumption of this material has good or bad effects on the environment, especially when you consider how highly demanded it is. When thermocol has served its designed purpose, what’s the best way to dispose of it if we want to elicit the least environmental impact?

For decades now, recycling has been a safe option for the environment, so can we recycle thermocol? If you’re beyond curious about this, then read on. In addition to getting enough information about recycling thermocol, you’ll also find alternative and creative ways to dispose of this material. Let’s go!

Can Thermocol Be Recycled?

We can also refer to thermocol as styrofoam, which is the name you’re likely more familiar with. It begins as polystyrene, then becomes thermocol after a long manufacturing process. Manufacturers make it from styrene and hydrofluorocarbon.

Brands and manufacturers use this material as padding for delicate and expensive items, like your television, freezers, video game consoles, you name it. So, you’ll hardly buy anything from a physical or online store without racking up a substantial supply of thermocol.

Considering the quantity we individually come in contact with raises speculations about how most of us dispose of this material. First, it’s important to note that it requires about 5 decades before it can completely break down. So, putting your useless thermocol in the garbage can is a not-so-good idea, as it’ll undoubtedly end up in a landfill.

It’ll take several decades to break down there; decomposition won’t happen because of its non-biodegradability. Instead, extreme temperatures, time, moisture, and oxygen will be the factors responsible for its decay.

Another scenario is when you dispose of your thermocol material improperly, and it ends up in our water bodies. It’s highly hazardous and should never contact our food or water, as it can leach chemicals into them. That’s why manufacturers avoid using this material for packaging edible items. 

It’s caused effects that researchers and medical personnel have linked to cancer, hearing loss, memory loss, among many others. As such, it’s harmful not only to the environment but also to our health.

Again, one of the best and safest disposal methods is to take thermocol to the recycling center. However, you’ll have first to find out if your recycling center has a suitable machine for recycling this material.

You see, thermocol is a form of plastic, and all plastics are recyclable. But when it comes to thermocol, this material is light and floats around so effortlessly. So, putting it in a recycling machine not only causes it to mix with and pollute other materials, but it may also be difficult for the machine to process it adequately.

So, thermocol can be recycled, but it requires using a machine that can extract the air by compressing it and making it into a material that producers can reuse.

Can You Put Thermocol in the Recycle Bin?

The more fragile items you purchase, the more you’ll need to deal with the disposal of thermocol. There are now uniform waste disposal methods these days – you can either compost the waste material or recycle it. There are other options, too; you can donate, upcycle or even repurpose.

However, the more common waste disposal method is recycling, as it provides fresh products for manufacturers. Again, we can’t recycle all our waste items. We have to consider the other disposal options and settle for the most environmentally friendly one.

Fortunately, recycle bins are being provided for various small communities to ensure that we dispose of our waste the right way. But again, not everything can do in these bins, so does that include thermocol?

Well, it doesn’t. We’ve mentioned earlier that recycling thermocol is different from recycling other materials. That’s because of the density of thermocol; it’s been designed to burst into smaller pieces when it comes in contact with brute and full force.

As such, we discourage putting thermocol in your recycling bin at home. If it makes its way to the recycling center, it can contaminate other materials in the recycling machine. Sometimes, the workers at the center don’t have time to sort through the materials in the recycling bin, so avoid putting thermocol in this bin.

So, when you’re looking to recycle thermocol, it’s best to find the closest thermocol recycling center. That’ll be an area where there are machines that have been built explicitly for this purpose.

Is Thermocol Plastic?

Plastic is now available in diverse forms. Sometimes, we interact with plastic without even knowing that’s what it is. However, based on the density and overall feel you get when you touch thermocol, you may suspect it’s a type of plastic.

You’d be right if that were your first guess. Thermocol is indeed a type of plastic, but one with a low weight.

You may be more familiar with the term “polystyrene,” it’s a type of plastic used for a range of products. Well, thermocol and these materials are the same; made from petroleum, like other plastic products.

It also requires an extended period for decomposition, as long as twenty years to a millennium. Just about any recycling center can take on plastic, but we can’t say the same for thermocol. The notable difference is that you can easily recycle plastic products.

That’s because of another notable difference between these two materials – plastic has a significant amount of weight while thermocol is quite light. Manufacturers have engineered it to produce a more delicate texture, more suited for padding and protecting fragile objects.

Is Thermocol Biodegradable?

Considering the amount of thermocol we use every day; it’s expected that the environmentally-conscious ones among us will wonder if microbes and other natural factors can break this material down. After all, decomposition is one of nature’s most effective methods of cleaning up after us.

Before we answer this question, we believe you’ll be interested in knowing what constitutes biodegradable and what doesn’t. You see, once the material can be broken down by microorganisms, moisture, air, and high or cool temperatures, then it’s biodegradable and will pose no problems for the environment.

On the other hand, if this material takes long years to break down, it’s non-biodegradable. These materials are more likely to negatively impact the environment, especially while slowly breaking down.

They can release toxins into the environment, leave harmful particles behind, and wreak a host of havoc on the areas they come in contact with. More notable are the toxic fumes that permeate into the environment during decomposition.

One of these materials is plastic, and it’s one of the biggest threats to our environment. Thermocol is a form of plastic, albeit lighter in weight. However, it has the same environmental effects, and composting can yield unwanted results.

For instance, like every other plastic, thermocol can take anywhere between two decades to ten centuries to break down. Composting it will not only be a futile effort, but you may also contaminate the other materials in your compost pile.

So, it’s best to find alternate methods to dispose of your thermocol waste, as composting isn’t a safe option.

Can You Paint Thermocol?

We can use thermocol for an array of arts and crafts. That’s one of the more environmentally conscious methods of disposing of this waste product. You can make some of the crafts we’ll show you down below, but what about sprucing them up?

Sometimes, all you need to bring out the beauty of your repurposed item is some paint or other forms of a makeover. Now, this begs the question of whether we can paint thermocol.

Well, there have been speculations flying around. Some believe you can paint thermocol, but only with a certain type of paint. Those speculations are correct, provided you’re using acrylic paint for your makeover.

Acrylic paint is the best for this hack because it adheres well. It’s the only option that gives off a result that makes you believe these two products were designed for each other.

However, thermocol is a porous material, so you need to paint over it as many times as possible. This should be until you’ve gotten your desired shade and texture. We recommend using a foam brush for this process.

How do You Dispose of Thermocol?

Despite the impressive rate at which innovations are progressing, there have been few reliable replacements for thermocol. As such, it’s still the go-to material for most manufacturers today.

If you’ve recently received a package that contains thermocol padding, then you have to worry about disposing of it. But wait! Before you consider the other environmentally friendly methods, you can give the following hacks a shot:

1. Rag Balls

To make a rag ball from your leftover thermocol, you must first carve out the balls. You can do this by getting a large chunk and carving out the shape of a circle with a serrated knife. Then, switch to a butter knife and sand off the finished product with sandpaper.

You can wrap different bright or monochrome fabrics around your rag balls. These are suitable decorative arrangements for every part of the home and can also be gifted to friends and family.

2. Decorative Pumpkins

More often than not, the crafts you can pull off from unwanted thermocol are those you’ll have to carve yourself, like decorative pumpkins. Of course, this material is dense, but it’s got the right amount of weight to stay put and produce a handsome set of carved pumpkins.

3. Snowballs

Snowballs can serve as decorative items all year round, not just during Christmas. You can carve out beautiful and unique snowballs from your unwanted thermocol balls. The best thing about this hack is that you can do it at home when you’re bored. Get out your carving knife and create some designer snowballs.

4. Pomander Flower Balls

These flower balls are innovative homemade decorations that we can use anywhere. For this hack, some thermocol foams, scrapbook paper, and beautiful one-inch pins with stoppers at the end are all you need.

Create the shape of your favorite flowers, but in small sizes, then use the pins to attach the shaped flowers to the thermocol ball.


Thermocol is an indispensable material in the packaging industry today. It serves multiple purposes, so that’s expectable. However, it’s an impending threat to our environment, especially in terms of disposal.

Since you’re aware of the dangers of this material, we believe that you’ll seek out the most suitable ways to dispose of it, some of which we’ve already explored in this blog post.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.