Many are not aware EPS (expanded polystyrene) packaging is recyclable – and is being recycled successfully by businesses and consumers across the United States. The 2012 EPS Packaging Recycling Rate Study (the “Rate Study”) was conducted by the EPS Industry Alliance (EPS-IA). The 2012 results reflect a modest decrease in the number of post-consumer pounds recycled, and a substantial increase in the number of post-industrial pounds recycled based on data received from fifty one EPS manufacturers and independent recyclers in the United States.
EPS Recycling Rate Increased
EPS recycled during calendar year 2012 is more than 93 million pounds.This figure includes 36.7 million pounds of post-consumer packaging and 56 million pounds of post-industrial recovery. Post-commercial recycling is defined as any material that is recycled after its intended end-use. Post-industrial recovery includes EPS facility scrap that is recycled but never served its intended end-use as a packaging material.
Since 1991, EPS recycling has demonstrated a stable baseline, incremental growth and steady end-use market developments. This growth can be attributed to innovative and sustainable programs specifically geared to EPS recycling. Businesses and consumers play a shared role in reducing the amount of packaging material that enters the waste stream by doing their part to recycle. Through this integrated approach – with everyone doing their part – increased recycling is achievable.
As compared to the 2010 Rate Study, 2012 showed an increased incremental growth in the amount of post-industrial recycling.This is supported by a steadfast reliance on high volume sources and proves the success of industry recycling efforts in the United States.Advances in EPS recycling technology, collaborative collection programs and new end-use markets have continued to broaden EPS recycling opportunities. In addition,the EPS industry fosters ongoing development of new and innovative recycling technologies that will promote further EPS recycling growth.These include recycled content resin and unique volume reduction technologies that are showing great potential.
As shown in Figure 2 below, the EPS packaging recycling rate percentage continues to grow steadily, showing a dependable track record to deliver consistent results. In fact, when comparing rigid, durable PS and other
grade materials, EPS post consumer recycling represents 50% of all post-use polystyrene recycled in the US and is one of the highest among all the plastics family.
EPS Collection & Reuse
EPS foam packaging is an excellent material for recycling and reuse with a long history of environmental stewardship. Members of the EPS Industry Alliance sponsor these efforts with ongoing financial support and active involvement in the collection and reprocessing of EPS. The EPS industry also funds the Plastic Loose Fill Reuse Program, a national reuse program for plastic loose fill, also known as ‘packaging peanuts’.
EPS Recycling Criteria
Post-consumer EPS packaging must be clean and free of tape, film and cardboard. EPS made with a fire retardant additive,typically used in the manufacture of EPS building insulation,requires special reprocessing conditions.To enhance collection efforts and maximize the investment in recycling equipment,EPS-IA recycling locations concentrate on large volume,commercial sources of post-consumer EPS. Some locations also offer consumer drop-off access.