One of the primary reasons Michigan Foam Products Inc. recycles expanded polystyrene can be summed up in two words….common sense. Being a natural hydrocarbon, EPS has the ability to be recycled an innumerable amount of times. It only takes a desire to get rid of the lethargy that surrounds some types of recycling efforts. We would prefer to see people get actively involved voluntarily, as many of our customers have been, rather than forced curbside bin laws and regulations. Education is always the best option. For many years schools have been involved with recycling education, outpacing adult awareness to some degree. At MFP, we are trying to increase the awareness of EPS recycled products because it becomes more cost effective to everyone when the marketability increases. Being able to use recycled EPS in our products decreases the cost to the customers, and saves virgin stock for the projects that demand it. Since EPS is basically a petroleum product, foreign oil demand is reduced.
Many companies including our own have been recycling EPS foam, many years before it was an environmental issue. We here at Michigan Foam have taken a proactive role in reducing the amounts of EPS ending up in any landfills and have aggressively attempted to recycle as much EPS as can be recovered or brought in by people just as concerned for the environment as we are. Currently, MFP recycles nearly 99% of the foam in our shop that comes from production scrap. It takes an amazing amount of full time man hours to grind up the thousands of pounds of EPS that we gladly recycle annually in house, and what is brought into us. When recycled, EPS foam can easily be ground up and added to virgin EPS beads and remanufactured into perfectly good fabricated EPS products. It has been found through extensive testing that EPS foam with approximately 25% recycled content material degraded the least amount, and is the best option to replace new EPS foams in packaging solutions without affecting the tensile strength or cushioning quality. When considering that we recycle 100 tons of EPS annually, it shows that we are seriously trying to be the answer to the recycling issue that we have at this point in time.
Worldwide, recycled EPS has exceeded over 93 million pounds, and over half of that incredible amount of EPS destined for the landfill was used to make recycled packaging materials, and many other novel polystyrene products (see list below). According to the EPS Industry Alliance, more than 50% of all EPS collected for recycling was used to make recycled-content packaging in 2012. For an excellent and detailed study on recycling and current statistics, check out this report from the EPS Industry Alliance website.
Due to the extensive research that the EPS industry has incorporated in recent years, even the most difficult types of EPS ( restaurant food containers, cups, and plates) now have the ability to be recycled. Besides using steam, a naturally extracted oil called D-Limonene is being used to literally melt the EPS to about 1/20th its original size without using dangerous chemicals of any kind. D-Limonene is the major component of the fluid ( also known as a terpene ) that is squeezed out of the peelings of citrus fruits like oranges. After distillation, the juice can be used as a food grade additive for fragrance in the cosmetics industry, for essential oils industry, and in more concentrated forms, as a solvent in the cleaning industry, as well.
Some novel uses for recycled EPS
- Used as an additive (aggregate and porous filler) to concrete reducing its weight – See Article
- Plastic exterior decking material (after which it is completely recyclable)
- Plastic fencing
- Picture frames
- Plastic furniture
- Coat Hangers
- Various toys
- Interior and exterior decorative molding
- Block molded for packaging material
- Foam aeration beads for plants
- Many horticultural uses
- Theatre props and movie sets