Recycling Styrofoam: From Impossible to Finding Resources

Recyclers can call ACH Foam Technologies in Eight States

Polystyrene shutterstock_125105333

Styrofoam may be a great packaging, insulation and manufacturing product, but it is a bane to toss out for anybody who has sustainability on their mind.  Very few places will recycle the stuff in any form and its life cycle appears to be close to eternal without taking drastic measures such as putting a match to it.

For recycling evangelists like myself, one company that specializes in manufacturing a variety of foam products does provide an appealing recycling option for Styrofoam packaging materials that haven’t been touched with food, oils or dirt. The company, ACH Foam Technologies is based in Denver and has operations in six additional states: NV, UT, KS, MO, WI and GA.

ACH Foam Technologies is an industry leader in Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) manufacturing, providing products for construction, geotechnical, packaging, and industrial applications. Video:

While Styrofoam may be regarded as a miracle substance for the packaging, shipping and building industries, it has long been considered a curse with no cure by recyclers and environmentalists due to an interminably long lifespan and its difficult fit in the recycling industry, where most regard it as nonrecyclable.

The company website states that its EPS products are environmentally friendly, contain recyclable material and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. EPS insulation is used nationwide in green and LEED-certified projects. Specifically, EPS does not contain CFC (chlorofluorocarbon), HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon), HFCs (hydrofluorocarbon) or formaldehyde which are harmful to the earth’s ozone. EPS is inert and stable and does not produce methane gas or contaminating leachates.

On the positive side, ACH writes that EPS manufacturing uses little energy, in which steam is a component of the manufacturing process. The water from this process is collected and re-used many times. Additionally, only 0.1 percent of total oil consumption is used to manufacture EPS.

In addition, scrap EPS generated during manufacturing or from jobsite waste can be ground and incorporated into new EPS products. EPS is recyclable and can be turned into new expanded polystyrene (EPS) products or thermally processed into a resin to make other products such as garden furniture, coat hangers and disposable cameras.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), buildings in the US alone account for 36 percent of energy use and 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Using EPS in commercial and residential construction can help reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions.

For builders structural insulated panels (SIPs) or insulated concrete forms (ICFs) create an airtight building envelope which reduces air leakage and heat loss, thus reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions in our atmosphere more than with a home built with 2x dimensional lumber.

Foam still presents difficulties in terms of sustainable waste stream management but its value as a product means it’s here to stay awhile. So congratulations to companies like ACH for providing a recycling option.

Photo: Angle on polystyrene sheet from Shutterstock



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