Styrofoam Recycling Ok, here is a question that seems to demand an answer! Why isn’t more EPS (Expanded PolyStyrene) known better by its’ trademarked name – Styrofoam – recycled more? The answer is simple and complicated at the same time. Most people and, believe it or not, most companies want to do the responsible thing and recycle whether it be EPS, polyurethane, high density or low density polyethylene, or polypropylene. The two main causes for the almost complete lack of recycling these products (less than 10%) is either lack of awareness of the problem or the cost of recycling – in particular the cost of shipping the recyclables to the recycling mill. The same reasons why expanded polystyrene is used so extensively is the same reason why it isn’t recycled more – weight! Styrofoam is used in a multitude of shipping applications. It is 98% air but can be very rigid to protect heavy objects such as furniture, but is so lightweight that is adds virtually nothing to the shipping weight of the products it protects. The same goes for polyethylene and polypropylene. Very lightweight but very effective in protecting products when they are being shipped. Practically everyone, with the exception of those very few who might have fallen off the grid, use products every day that are either made of EPS, or were packed in it. Everything from televisions to the electronic parts that make up your cell phone, tablets, laptops and computers we use daily were shipped using Styrofoam, polypropylene, polyethylene, or polyurethane. We could make a list of the products that are used every day by people that would exhaust the space available in the article. Yet we don’t recycle a vast majority of these valuable shipping products. Piles and piles of these products end up in a landfill. Why? Because it costs less to ship it to the landfill than it does to ship it larger distances to a recycling mill. Does that mean it is cheap to ship to a landfill? NO, it is not! A typical 40 yard roll off container in an industrial setting cost $300 per pull. A pull is the term used in the waste industry to describe the act of sending a roll off truck to your location, putting the container, empty or not, onto the truck, taking it to the landfill for unloading and delivering the container back to the original location. That does NOT include the weight fee that is also assessed for the disposal of the waste materials. Since EPS weighs so little, it takes up a lot of room for its’ volume. Which means that many warehouses have to pay for weekly, bi-weekly or even daily pulls! That money adds up (obviously $300 per week is over $15,000 per year) but it is still cheaper than shipping unaltered Styrofoam a couple of hundred miles roundtrip to a recycling mill. The answer for a lot of applications is increasing the weight to volume ratio by “densifying” these lightweight products in much heavier, but much less volume, products that can be shipped at a cost that makes these products valuable to recycling mills.
Sounds simple and the process is very simple, but awareness of the solutions is very low, therefore, the USA as well as every other country in the world is effectively NOT recycling EPS. There are basically two ways to “densify” these products. “Hot” processing involves melting the Styrofoam, polypropylene, and polyethylene into much denser, stackable blocks. The other process is a “cold” process which compacts the EPS with a baler into stackable blocks of very dense materials. Both of these methods reduce volume up to 90% which can actually increase shipping weights to meet capacity weight limits on a standard box truck. Better Densifiers can help anyone find the solution that best fits their needs. A simple call to 1-888-350-2079 or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org can connect you to a contact person who will explain the options and the costs involved in solving the Styrofoam waste problems. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff can help guide you to the best solution for you particular situation. Why wait – CALL TODAY!