ACH Foam Technologies (Denver, CO) is asking its business partners and end-users to join in a collaborative EPS (expanded polystyrene) packaging recycling effort. ACH already uses a closed-loop manufacturing model in its own production. ACH processes EPS for packaging, construction, and geotechnical applications in 10 plants across the U.S. and Mexico.
“We are working with the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers (AFPR) to ensure increased awareness and participation in the recycling of EPS packaging,” said Todd Huempfner, ACH vice president of operations. “All of our products are produced with nearly zero expanded polystyrene product waste. Water in the process is re-used over and over again. We either feed scrap EPS into our grinder to be recycled into new packaging, and in many cases it becomes a green building construction product, or we apply heat and pressure to turn the EPS into a denser molded block. The densified blocks are then palletized and sent to a national reprocessing facility, where they are made into molded products such as baseboard trim, for example.”
According to Huempfner, the “greenness” of EPS lies in the entire lifecycle of the product. “EPS uses less energy and resources to manufacture, transport and recover than comparable paper and coated paperboard products,” he explained. “Basically, the only environmental footprint EPS leaves is un-recycled product. That means it’s up to end-users and corporate partners to participate in the recycling effort.”
The Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers releases recycling rates every two years, and their figures show that 32 million lb of post-consumer EPS were recycled in 2006, up from 25 million lb in 2004. “We’re at 28% recycling (rate of all EPS processed in the U.S.) in 2006, but that number needs to be much higher,” said Huempfner. Figures for 2008 will be made available in mid-2009. There is a curbside program in Los Angeles for recycling clean polystyrene products. No such program exists for coated paperboard products.
For its program, ACH Foam Technologies’ plants serve as drop-off facilities for smaller quantities of post-consumer EPS packaging from any clean (non-food contaminated) source. ACH will refer consumers to professional recycling facilities when the quantities to be recycled surpass ACH’s capabilities. Those who don’t have access to a drop-off site are using different methods of recycling their EPS packaging, such as its mail-back program.
“ACH and the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers can’t do this alone,” concluded Huempfner. “The post-consumer recycling piece is the last piece in the puzzle of sustainability for EPS. We’re doing our part by recycling 100% of the post-industrial scrap generated from the manufacturing process and providing our EPS recycling capabilities to businesses and consumers within our recycling capacities. With the help of EPS packaging customers, distributors and end-users we can further increase EPS recycling rates.”—[email protected]