Expanded Polystyrene Foam Recycling (EPS) Facts and Figures

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Although the recycling of expanded polystyrene foam remains controversial, EPS can effectively be recycled and reused. The rate of recycling is increasing every single year and it is expected to increase more in the coming years. Here are some of the key EPS recycling facts and figures:

1. According to the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers, 56 million pounds of Extended Polystyrene Foam were recycled in 2006 in USA.

In 2010, the amount of foam recycled was 71.3 million pounds. The 2010 figure includes 34.2 million pounds of post industrial EPS recovery, 31.7 million pounds of cost commercial recovery and only 5.4 million pounds of post consumer EPS packaging. In 2012, the recycling of amount of EPS increased to 93.7 million pounds which included 56.9 million pounds of post industrial and 36.7 million pounds of post consumer EPS. Recycling of EPS was also on the increase in 2013 as 125 million pounds of EPS was recycled in that year. 72.8 million pounds of 2013 recycled EPS was post commercial and post industrial EPS and the remaining 52.2 million pounds was post consumer EPS.

2. The post-consumer and post- commercial EPS recycling in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 were 25 million pounds, 32 million pounds, 33.6 million pounds and 37.1 million pounds respectively.

3. Over the last few years, the recycling percentages of EPS recycled every year continue to grow as well.

Despite misconceptions about the recyclability of EPS, the EPS manufacturers and recyclers have achieved recycling rate of 34 percent in the year 2013. In actual fact, when comparing durable, rigid  polystyrene (PS) and other similar grade materials, post commercial and post consumer EPS recycling represents 47 percent of all post-use polystyrene recovered and recycled in the U.S.  And in 2013, over 50 percent of EPS recovered for recycling was used to produce recycled content packaging.

4. The rate of post-consumer and post-industrial EPS recycling is one of the highest among all kinds of plastics. For the past 15 years, the worldwide EPS industry managed to recycle an average of 19 percent of post-consumer and 25 percent of post-industrial EPS.

5. The increasing volumes and percentages of EPS recycling are astonishing considering the fact that 95-98 percent of EPS is air.

6. Dumping EPS into landfills is extremely harmful for our environment because it does not biodegrade in landfills. Polystyrene packaging is not permitted to use in Antarctica as consumption of polystyrene by wildlife can be fatal. On the other hand, recycling every ton of EPS saves as much as 637 gallons of oil.

7. As EPS is so light in weight that it takes up just 0.01% of total solid waste stream by weight and volume.

8. In Australia alone, more than 700 tons of EPS were recycled in 2005 to 2006.

9. As the use of recycled content in producing new EPS packaging increases (10 percent to 20 percent), consumption of energy decreases (3 percent to13 percent.)

10. Sources reveal that in 2006 alone, around 135 tons of EPS wastes were disposed of at landfills in Hong Kong every day, 97 tons of which were polystyrene drink and food containers.

11. Every year, America uses sufficient EPS to circle the world as many as 426 times.

12. On 2009 Clean Up Australia Day, on an average, 14 pieces of EPS were collected from every clean up location and 1/3 of the collected polystyrene rubbish included fast food packaging and another 1/3 included polystyrene fragments.

References

  • http://www.achfoam.com/2013-Industry-Recycling-Report.aspx