Earlier this week, PlasticsToday ran an article about a lawsuit filed by a broad coalition of recyclers, foam foodservice manufacturers, restaurant owners and the Restaurant Action Alliance NYC against New York City's illegal ban of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) foodservice products.
While New York City haggles over the EPS foam recycling issue, many residents and commercial companies in the Denver Metro area soon will be able to add PS foam foodservice packaging, egg cartons, meat trays and protective EPS packaging to their recycling bins, thanks to a $45,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition, a program of the Foodservice Packaging Institute.
Alpine Waste & Recycling of Commerce City, CO, is the first recipient of a North American funding program designed to increase the collection, processing and marketing of postconsumer polystyrene foam. Alpine will use the grant money to purchase equipment that compacts (densifies) PS foam into bricks, making Alpine the first company in Denver to provide foam recycling services.
Alpine is the largest independent, privately held waste and recycling company in Colorado. It is vertically integrated with a fleet of more than 80 collection vehicles and 220 employees; the second-largest recycling facility in the state; composting collection and operations; and a landfill.
"Out of the dozens of applications from the United States and Canada, we were particularly impressed with Alpine's thoughtfulness and plans for the future," said Lynn Dyer, President, Foodservice Packaging Institute. "Alpine recognized the value and benefit of adding polystyrene foam to its already successful recycling program."
Brent Hildebrand, Vice President-recycling for Alpine, commented, "Alpine Waste & Recycling prides itself on its culture of innovation, and this opportunity to recycle foam foodservice and protective packaging is certainly an industry-leading moment. It allows us to respond decisively to the wishes of consumers who have long sought an opportunity to recycle this material."
Hildebrand said Alpine will work immediately on a structure of operations that will encourage companies and organizations in the Denver area to provide foam to the Altogether Recycling Plant, a division of Alpine.
The Foam Recycling Coalition focuses exclusively on increased recycling of postconsumer polystyrene foam. Its members include Americas Styrenics; Cascades Canada ULC; CKF Inc.; Chick-fil-A; Commodore; Convermex; D&W Fine Pack; Dart Container Corp.; Dolco Packaging, A Tekni-Plex Company; Foodservice/Food Packaging; Shell Chemical LP; Styrolution America; and Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA. Additional support for the coalition comes from the EPS Industry Alliance.
Dyer told PlasticsToday that while the bans on EPS foam have slowed down, they still happen. She is aware of the New York City ban and subsequent lawsuit. "We don't agree with the bans," she said. "The Foodservice Packaging Institute represents all types of materials and we don't support any ban on any type of material based on wrong information. The materials that are being recycled today are very different than they were 20 to 30 years ago. PS foam is a material that people thought couldn't be recycled. But now it can be."
When the Foodservice Packaging Institute started the Foam Recycling Coalition, Dyer said that "the phone rang off the hook" at the organization's headquarters in Falls Church, VA. "There are a large number of companies that make the recycling equipment that now belong to the FPI, and they want to help promote and educate people that, yes, polystyrene foam can be recycled," explained Dyer. "There's quite a lot of demand for recycled foam foodservice material, and there are many cities that recycle this product currently."
The coalition will continue to offer grants that promote foam recycling in residential curbside, drop-off and commercial programs. Additional grant recipients will be announced later this spring, said the Foodservice Packaging Institute's information.