Post-consumer EPS recycling sluggish

Post-consumer EPS recycling sluggish

By Bobby Elliott
Plastics Recycling Update Nov. 1, 2013

Recycling of rigid foam products, known as expanded polystyrene (EPS), gained ground in 2012, with strong post-industrial figures outweighing a slight decline in post-consumer recycling output. Read more


EPS in Vehicle

Use EPS to Produce Better Vehicles

Inside a veihicle, you can find EPS used as bumpers, seat panels, dashboards, arm rests etc. Why should EPS be used in a vehicle? In short, the reason is that EPS has the properties of shock absorption, insulation, light weighted and rapid moulding.
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Equipments used for EPS recycling

It is reported that more than 93 million pounds of EPS was recycled during calendar year 2012 and the number is supposed to increase steadily. The EPS recycling procedure will not work at least not so effective without the help of EPS recycling equipments including EPS shredder, EPS compactor, EPS pelletizing machine etc.
EPS Recycling Equipments
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EPS in landfills

Facts about EPS in Landfills

Will EPS Degrade in Landfills?

EPS products do not degrade in landfills. However it may surprise you that the commonly known “degradable” matrials like paper even food waste do not degrade in most landfills neither. How come? Actually, there are three types of landfill fields nowadays including anaerobic bioreactor landfill, aerobic landfill and semi-aerobic landfill. The most popular landfill across the world is the first kind which is easier to build and maintain. But the low expense comes at the cost of some trade-offs. One of the problem it brings is that air is deprived in these landfills which makes degradation harder for not only nondegradable materials like EPS but also degradable materials like paper.

Current situation of EPS in Landfills

It is reported that the largest component in landfills is paper (50%) while plastic constitute about 10% of the waste. In Europe, EPS products are completely banned from landfills. It is the original manufacturer who is responsible for the management of EPS waste. The land available for landfill is very limited compared to the rapid increasing amount of waste. I One of the reason for countries banned it from landfills should be that EPS is made light weighted which means its weight-volume ratio is very small. By using EPS compactors its weight can be up to 90 times bigger with the same volume. This should be benificial for the landfilling or recycling of EPS.

Approaches to Styrofoam Recycling

How to Recycle Styrofoam

Styrofoam, also known as EPS, is widely used as containers, packagings and thermal insulation material in buildings. It is hard to break down and takes up too much room in landfill plants, therefore, the recycling of styrofoam is recommended. The following pictures are the recycling steps.

1. Identify products made from Styrofoam by looking for the number 6 inside a recycling triangle
Identify EPS Products
2. Keep polystyrene products to reuse. Some of the most common uses for reusing Styrofoam are:

  • Craft projects.
  • Floaters for fishing.
  • Drainage in potted plants.
  • Creating sets for theatrical productions.
  • Model train communities.
  • Stuffing bean bags or bean bag chairs.
  • Packaging for shipping.
  • Reuse Styrofoam Products
    3. Check with local shipping businesses to see if they can reuse Styrofoam shipping materials such as peanuts in their shipping.
    Check Local Shipping Business
    4. Contact your local recycling program to see if anyone knows of Styrofoam recycling programs or drop off sites in your community.
    Contact Local Recycling Program
    5. Recycle polystyrene in many grocery stores
    Publix Grocery Stores
    6. Search for Styrofoam recycling programs
    Enter “polystyrene” and your zip code at for a list of companies that you can take it to.
    Blue Earth Solutions is one Styrofoam recycling business.
    Earth 911
    7. Mail polystyrene to the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.
    Mail to AFPR
    8. Start a Styrofoam recycling program if your business deals with a large quantity of polystyrene. Walmart is one example of a company with an EPS recycling program, using polystyrene to make picture frames.
    Start a Recycling Program
    EPS recycling can be used to make new packaging materials.
    Find an EPS recycler through the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recycling
    If you locate a Styrofoam recycling program, but don’t process much, consider setting up bins to collect polystyrene.


    Styrofoam Containers at the Crossroad

    Styrofoam ContainerStyrofoam containers seem to be facing the ultimate question “To be or not to be?”. What is interesting is that different countries are making absolute different decisions. US cities like Seattle and New York banned these Styrofoam take-out containers despite the disapproval of some restaurants managers who consider it as a rise in cost. In the contrary, China lifted the ban on foam trays from May 1st this year and this also faced lots of resistance with the concern that it may be a pollution to the environment and a threat to human health.
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