Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Recycling Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Is On the Rise.

Let’s say goodbye to one more myth about plastics – the one that says expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam cannot be recycled. EPS, often called Styrofoam, which is a Dow Chemical trademarked product, is already being recycled commercially.

Kudos to Natalie Morris for her article (October 10, 2011) in the State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL) titled “Springfield furniture store goes green.” It describes how the Ashley Furniture HomeStore discovered it could recycle the EPS foam that came wrapped around its furniture, and make money doing it.

Back in 2006, the store’s general manager Scott Nation couldn’t believe how much paper and plastic waste was being created. The Ashley team started looking for ways to reduce it, particularly the foam that protected furniture in shipment. It was the major factor, at least by volume. Ashley found a way to deal with it, by way of Styrocyclers LLC (Marietta, GA).

Styrocyclers sells many recycling systems, including the Styrocycler that Ashley acquired. It melts the EPS foam, drastically reducing its volume. Nation told Natalie Morris that the machine turns about two refrigerator-sized containers of foam into one dense block about the size of a cinderblock. Ashley sells the Styrocycler’s 5-inch by 5-inch bricks linked into logs to Midwest Fiber Recycling of Decatur, IL, and the plastic moves on to the next of what should be many lives.

The Styrocycler has decreased Ashley’s landfill trash by more than 3000 cubic yards annually. Ashley recouped its investment in five months by saving $2600 per month in trash hauling fees, plus revenue from selling the densified polystyrene logs.

Larry Maletta, president of Styrocyclers, says it’s all about educating a company to see that recycling EPS can save and make money. He challenges potential clients to monitor the costs of collecting a month’s worth of their EPS waste and having it taken away. Payback, says Styrocyclers, is less than six months.

Ashley Furniture now sends as little as 20% of what it formerly sent to the landfill, and it has acquired a taste for being green. Paper no longer is pitched out, but instead is bundled for recycling. Replacing incandescent lights with LED bulbs changed a six-month replacement cycle to 16 years, and because the LED bulbs are

brighter, some 400 light fixtures were eliminated from the 35,000-ft2 store. Ashley’s sister company, Barney’s Furniture, also in Springfield, is following the same recycling program.

Besides supplying recycling systems, Styrocyclers also is a recycling processor that collects EPS logs in its local area. Its stated objective is to let people know that EPS is 100% recyclable and that it can be done repeatedly. If a company doesn’t have a local recycler that takes EPS, no problem. Styrocyclers is part of a National Mail Back Program that lets anyone mail their scrap to the company – some business for the Postal Service.

Seriously though, it dawns on more of us every day that being greener is a good thing. If recycling also brings in more of that other green – meaning money – it’s just that much more incentive to do good .

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