The demand for sustainability of all materials whether expanded foam plastics or any other materials are becoming the way of life. When recycling foam materials such as expanded polyethylene and polypropylene, economic transportation becomes one of the major issues pertaining to the ability for a successful recycling program of these materials.
Expanded polyethylene and expanded polypropylene have been providing solutions to a variety of packaging and energy absorption needs. In most cases these materials are fully recyclable and have a value in the arena of recycled commodities. The value for recycled polyethylene and polypropylene climb as new avenues for these recycled materials increases. Environmental debates over plastic materials also drive the demand to divert these foam materials from the landfill. Yet, all too often these fine materials that have demand in the market place are sent to the landfill as waste.
Both expanded polyethylene and polypropylene have great potential for recyclability and the present value reflects that. While similar to expanded polystyrene (EPS) recycling, expanded polyethylene and polypropylene do have distinct differences that separate the materials from processing in the same manner as expanded polystyrene. Compacting equipment is necessary for economic recycling of foam materials, but different than EPS recycling, most expanded polyethylene and polypropylene will need a way for the materials to remain compressed after processing because of the high memory of these particular materials.
Unlike many polyethylene and polypropylene films that can be baled for consolidation to an end-user; expanded/extruded polyethylene foam and polypropylene foams can not be compressed to ideal densities and retain compression with normal baling equipment. To attain an appropriate compression density for economical transportation, a foam compactor that will process expanded polyethylene and polypropylene must be utilized. Having the appropriate compacting equipment will not only provide compression densities that will enable maximum load capacities on a trailer, but will also provide a means of ease in palletizing and /or loading of trailers.
Heger compacters provide both of the necessary elements to attain such compression and ease of palletizing. With the use of a foam compactor, economic transportation of a valuable commodity ensues. Companies taking this action reduce the waste to landfills and provide value that positively affects business revenue.
For information on Heger Compacting Systems www.foamequipment.com/compactors
The latest EPS recycling report was just released by the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers (AFPR). The 2010 report shows a considerable increase in the EPS recycling percentage over the 2008 report, even during a poor economy when less EPS was sold.
EPS used for shape molding applications such as packaging has one of the highest recycling rates of all plastics, increasing from 19.5% in 2008 to 28% in 2010.
This is encouraging news as many people are still unaware that EPS and Styrofoam are recyclable. Based on the calls we receive, the concept of recycling EPS packaging is still new to many companies.
One of the hurdles to EPS recycling is collection and transportation. Many communities do not accept PS, EPS or Styrofoam at the neighborhood recycling center and very few communities accept Styrofoam in the curbside recycling program limiting the collection of post-consumer EPS.
A second hurdle that goes hand in hand with collection is a lack of compacting and densification equipment at the community recycling centers. Due to the bulkiness and light weight of EPS packaging, it should normally be compacted into a dense form before it is shipped to a plastics processor for recycling. Compacting the foam, which is approximately 98% air, makes transportation economical. Once a community decides it would like to add EPS and Styrofoam to their recycling program, a compactor specifically designed to densify EPS should be acquired.
As more communities add EPS and Styrofoam to their recycling programs, the recycling percentages for this material will continue to climb.
One of the problems many people have when considering a compactor or densifier for scrap foam plastics is how much foam do they really have? Since packaging foam is very lightweight and can be very bulky, what appears to be a large quantity may not be so much after all. Typical polystyrene foam packaging and insulation is usually in the density range of 1 to 2 pound per cubic foot. What this means is if you have a 12 inch x 12 inch x 12 inch cube of solid foam, it would weigh between 1 and 2 pounds. Since most packaging foam is not used in a solid block form but is molded into relatively thin designs to protect the product, several cubic feet of polystyrene or polyethylene packaging foam may be required to equal a pound of foam.
Here are a few guidelines for estimating the weight of uncompressed EPS or EPE foam pieces. (This excludes stacked sheet foam and block foam)
- A 53' trailer load will weigh 1500 - 2000 pounds
- A 20 yard roll-off dumpster containing only EPS foam will hold 200 - 300 pounds of EPS
- A 12 foot square mound of foam packaging piled 8 feet high will weight about 100 - 150 pounds of EPS
Are you still unsure of your weekly or monthly EPS waste volume? We are happy to give you a hand. Give us a call at 314-427-4395 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FYI: Styrofoam is a registered trademark for the Dow Chemical brand of extruded polystyrene foam (XPS). It is usually blue in color and made in the form of a sheet. Expandable polystyrene (EPS) is a bead type foam which can be molded into shapes, blocks, and sheets. It is typically white in color but can be died to any color. EPS is frequently but erroneously referred to a Styrofoam.