Several markets are available for EPS in both closed- and open-loop recycling. Sufficient end markets are available for all the clean EPS collected. Almost half of the EPS packaging recycled—both molded and loose-fill—is remanufactured back into EPS packaging.
Other applications for EPS recycling include building applications such as siding and deck board, ceiling texture, molding, electronic products, auto products, agricultural products, office supplies, egg cartons, and beanbag filler. Markets for non-foam PS include coat hangers, picture frames, waste baskets, videocassettes, flowerpots, and nursery trays.
Companies that produce non-foam rigid PS products consume about 25 percent of the EPS packaging recycled. EPS molders consume about 50 percent, and loose fill manufacturers purchase the remaining 25 percent. The amount of material currently available limits the recycled-content level in molded EPS to about 2 percent post consumer material.
Recycled-content levels in EPS molded packaging can be as high as 25 percent, but they are typically much lower. These levels could increase in the future. One manufacturer of EPS recycling equipment recently obtained acceptable ASTM standards with EPS made with 20 percent and 40 percent regrind. Applications with higher cushioning requirements may need to use a lower recycled content level.
Molders typically incorporate recycled content into their products by blending in used expanded beads from products they take in and grind down to bead levels. Because the recycled EPS is not reblown, it has a different shape and can only be used in limited quantities.
This material serves primarily as “dead filler” material because it lacks a blowing agent to make it into foam. Due to design restrictions, molded EPS—especially thin material—can tolerate 5 to 10 percent recycled EPS without a loss in quality characteristics. Less demanding applications, such as EPS block manufacturing, can tolerate higher levels.
Another primary market for recycled EPS molded packaging is the production of loose-fill packaging. Loose fill packaging manufacturers are active in EPS collection programs. Loose fill typically ranges.