Converting junk to surfboards: polystyrene foam collection project launches at UCSC

Nearly 150 pounds of polystyrene foam waste projects were diverted from landfills -- and slated to be turned into surf boards -- at a recent collection event on campus.

On Feb. 13, UCSC Environmental Health & Safety put on polystyrene foam recycling collection day for the laboratories on Science Hill. This event is being hailed as a major success, with nearly 150 lbs. of Styrofoam and other polystyrene products winding up in the recycling containers instead of going to a landfill.

Organizers now say the event went so well, they will host follow-ups on a regular basis.

Physical Plant recently teamed up with a company called Waste to Waves based out of southern California, which collected all the polystyrene foam products and will use them to make surfboard blanks.

"Campus laboratories have been saving their (foam products), waiting for an opportunity to sustainably recycle the problematic waste,” said April Anstey, Hazardous Waste Manager for UCSC Environmental Health & Safety.

Anstey also mentioned that the timing was perfect because the pilot campus Styrofoam collection event, sponsored by EH&S, the Sustainability Office and UCSC’s Physical Plant, coincided with the announcement of the new Waste to Waves program. "This program makes use of waste that can potentially endanger aquatic life and converts the material locally into instruments that help us connect with the ocean."

Aaron Lukas, student Sustainability Office Intern with Environmental Health & Safety, said he was thrilled to have helped UCSC develop this recycling program. “It feels good to know that I have helped to reduce the amount of waste that UCSC puts into the landfill. I am thankful for all of the wonderful people who helped put this together."

The UCSC Grounds Department provided a 20 cubic-yard roll-off box for holding the foam collected from campus by the EH&S and Sustainability Office labs collection program.Waste to Waves picks up collected clean Styrofoam-type products in their van when they are finished. Then these materials are taken to a facility in Corona to be remade into new surfboard blanks.