If you’ve bought a cup of coffee, purchased raw meat from a grocery store or opened a fragile package, you’ve probably interacted with polystyrene foam. And you probably put it in the trash can when you were finished with it.
But soon you could be recycling it instead.
The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI, fpi.org) has launched the “Foam Recycling Coalition” to support the recycling of post-consumer expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging.
As their first project, the Foam Recycling Coalition commissioned a study to better understand end market demand for post-consumer foam. Berkley Research Group, which conducted the study, found nearly 140 companies that process or use recycled post-consumer foam, including foodware, in the U.S. and Canada. The study also highlights rising demand for recycled expanded polystyrene (known as EPS), in both domestic and global markets.
The next step for the coalition will be to establish and fund a proactive, multi-year grant program to assist residential material recovery facilities (MRFs) in recycling post-consumer polystyrene foam. Target materials to be recovered through the program include polystyrene foam foodservice packaging, such as cups, containers and dinnerware; processor trays; egg cartons; and transport packaging. Public and private businesses that operate MRFs may apply for grants that will provide foam recycling equipment. The fund also will provide technical assistance to grant recipients and others interested in adding foam to their curbside recycling programs. The initial call for applications will occur in early 2015.
Since 2011, FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group have been working to overcome real and perceived barriers that limit the recycling and composting of foodservice packaging. “We learned that foam packaging has its own unique set of barriers that warrant special attention,” said FPI President Lynn M. Dyer. “Not enough market demand has been a perceived barrier to increasing the recovery of foam, but this latest study uncovers growing end markets. The coalition’s grant program will capitalize on the market demand by providing assistance to economically sort, store, and transport post-consumer foam and thus, keep this valuable material from going to landfills — and into manufacturing facilities instead.”
The founding members of the coalition include Americas Styrenics; Cascades Canada ULC; CKF Inc.; Commodore; Convermex; D&W Fine Pack; Dart Container Corp.; Dolco Packaging, A Tekni-Plex Company; Dyne-A-Pak; Genpak; Hawaii Foam Products; and Pactiv Foodservice/Food Packaging. These companies represent the vast majority of the foodservice packaging manufacturing industry in the U.S. and Canada.