The Recycling Committee of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (plasticsindustry.org) released a paper Monday detailing the current state of the expanded polystyrene (EPS) recycling market, finding that the demand for post-consumer recycled (PCR) EPS presently outweighs the supply of this material available, and that technologies exist today to make EPS recycling not only possible, but profitable.
“Expanded polystyrene serves many important roles in our lives,” said the Recycling Committee in the paper, titled “Unlocking the EPS Recovery Potential: Technologies Enabling Efficient Collection and Recovery.” “It insulates. It protects. It has a fraction of the environmental impact in the full life cycle compared to other non-resin alternatives. The greatest challenge for this material at end-of-life is, however, also a symptom of its best feature; it is light, creating a unique set of challenges for collection and processing.” However, as the paper outlines, when paired with the right technology solutions, these challenges can certainly be overcome.
The SPI Recycling Committee’s paper aims to combat these impediments to increased EPS recycling, offering recyclers an introduction to EPS recycling, demonstrating the material’s market value and outlining the technologies available to make EPS recycling widespread enough to meet surging demand. “Lack of awareness and infrastructure to support the collection of EPS has been cited as a significant barrier to expanding the collection of EPS products,” the Recycling Committee writes. “Having the right technology in place to support efficient collection and processing of EPS products is key to unlocking the recovery potential of these valuable materials.”
The paper is the latest step taken by the SPI Recycling Committee to move the needle on plastics recovery and recycling. “Demand for recovered EPS continues to grow and new end-market uses for this material are cropping up every day in applications such as insulation, molding, construction, packaging and others,” says Jon Stephens of Avangard Innovative, chairman of the Recycling Committee Technology and Equipment Subcommittee. “This paper offers recyclers working domestically and internationally a primer on what technologies are available for them to start increasing their EPS recovery, and their return on investment.” The paper also serves as a launching off point for further research being conducted on the processing of EPS in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Completion of that research is expected in the early summer of 2015.
“Investing in technology to expand the recovery and processing of EPS can enable plastics recyclers to meet both an economic and environmental need,” says SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux. “Increasing recycling rates for all types of PCR plastic materials is both good business and good corporate citizenship, and the SPI Recycling Committee continues to do an excellent job leveraging its unique position in SPI, and throughout the entire $374-billion plastics industry, to expand end-use opportunities for recycled plastics, including EPS.”
In addition to providing a broad overview of the issues and market opportunities facing EPS recyclers, “Unlocking the EPS Recovery Potential: Technologies Enabling Efficient Collection and Recovery” also includes a list, complete with information on equipment capacity and availability, of technologies recyclers can use to expand their EPS processing capability.