Things won’t be done sustainably, until it can be done profitably.
So, spread the word: Styrofoam can be recycled profitably.
Why recycling doesn’t work is because, overall, it’s not profitable. It’s very simple: oil is cheap, at least now, and when oil is cheap, making new plastic is cheap.Meanwhile, sorting, transporting, and melting down existing plastic is expensive.
When oil gets rather expensive – and stays rather expensive – recycling all sorts of plastic (not just styrofoam) will make a solid profit.
But not before.
I can’t peg when Peak Oil will actually arrive, Peak Oil defined as “the price of oil will never fall below $100 again.” That day has not arrived; even if oil hits $100 next year, I am confident that it will be a peak in the price, not a floor.
But technology continues to advance: perhaps some combination of new innovations will be developed by ~2030 that will make recycling a very cheap affair, and so make recycling profitable even when the oil price is at $15 or even $10.
We wil see.