It is important to note that recycled EPS can be categorized into two types of material:
1. Post Consumer refers to a material or finished product that has served its intended use and has been discarded for disposal or recovery, having completed its life as a consumer item.
2. Post Industrial is recovered industrial and manufacturing materials that are diverted from municipal solid waste for the purpose of collection, recycling, and disposition.
The practice of recycling EPS B&C products can be accomplished by various methods.Manufacturers of EPS will reintroduce postindustrial scrap into the manufacturing process eliminating waste within the plant.The level of scrap is carefully monitored as to avoid compromising the integrity of the product.
Post-construction EPS waste can be reground and mixed with concrete to produce new building products such as Rastra and prefabricated concrete blocks. Adding EPS regrind increases the thermal performance of these applications in addition to providing an alternative to the landfill. An example of post-consumer EPS use can be found in products such as decking and lumber.
Packaging recycling has obtained an annual recycling rate of over 12%. This success is based on the collection of a larger commercial waste stream as compared to other applications of EPS. With regard to recycling on a jobsite, the amount of recoverable EPS insulation is minimal and the economics to recycle a small amount may outweigh potential benefits. Some building projects would have the potential for recycling but they would have to be evaluated on a case-bycase basis.
Expanded polystyrene insulation makes a significant contribution to building and construction needs without adversely affecting the environment. As green building initiatives grow, more education is needed to understand how plastics can enhance our lives and minimize our footprints on the earth.