Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
If, as many think, expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam is not recyclable, how do we explain the 71.3 million pounds of EPS that was recycled across the USA in 2010? That’s what the 2010 EPS
Packaging Rate Study done by the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers (AFPR) shows was recycled for reuse from post-consumer and post-industrial collection streams.
It’s also important to note that EPS foam packaging (mistakenly called Styrofoam*) consists of about 98% air, therefore the physical amount of EPS foam that was recycled was very large. Post-consumer EPS was 37.1 million pounds of the total and the remaining 34.2 million pounds was from post-industrial collection streams.
In its report, AFPR says some companies are promoting EPS recycling through shared responsibility within the supply chain. Wal-Mart, for instance, created a closed-loop EPS recycling strategy that uses collected material to create recycled picture frames. Several pharmaceutical companies have started prepaid return shipping programs for EPS biomedical coolers.
AFPR has partnered with the Plastic Loosefill Council, whose “Peanut Hotline” at (800) 828-2214 tells consumers how to find local packaging businesses that reuse the loosefill EPS foam often referred to as peanuts. The Hotline has a database with thousands of centers around the country, mostly pack and ship stores located in neighborhood shopping areas, where consumers can take their EPS foam peanuts.
Further helping the environment, recycled EPS packaging typically uses 3% to 13% less energy to manufacture, and innovative manufacturing technologies are helping to further minimize energy consumption, recycle water, and recapture airborne emissions during production of EPS foam.
To see how a furniture store found a way to economically and profitably recycle the EPS foam that protected incoming furniture shipments, click here.
*Styrofoam is Dow Chemical’s trademarked name for its foam insulation.