The UK EPS industry has worked for many years to actively encourage the recycling of used packaging materials ad many large electronics companies and retailers are successfully collecting and recycling their EPS.
Once collected, EPS is recycling in a number of different ways. Firstly it can be introduced into new EPS foam and it is already widely used by the construction industry where recycled packaging is added to insulation board. Recycled material is also commonly used in the form of “loose-fill” packaging.
Once the air content is removed, EPS is no different from crystal polystyrene (GPPS) and it can be use in a range of non-foamed applications. Recycled EPS is widely used to mould coat hangers, videocassettes and plant pots.
One of the most novel uses for recycled EPS is a wood substitute that is used for a number of applications. The recycled EPS is converted into a material that looks and acts like wood. It can be sawn, nailed or screwed, just like wood.
It can be used for products such as park benches and fence posts and is already found in garden furniture and marine walkways. The products costs less than hardwood and has the additional benefit of saving hardwoods such as mahogany and teak.
The retail store Mark&Sencer are using the product in their counter tops where it is extremely durable and resistant to impact from trolleys.
Alternative to mechanical recycling
When mechanical recycling options are not appropriate, incineration with the recovery of the resultant heat energy is a viable alternative. EPS has a higher calorific value than coal and approximately the same value as fuel oil. EPS burs efficiently, to carbon dioxide and water, and produces no harmful gaseous emissions.
Emissions from incineration plants are strictly regulated. Control systems have been developed to the level where incineration plants can be run with no adverse effects on the surrounding environment or population. Tests conducted at the SELCHP “energy from waste ” plant in London, have shown that combustion can be accomplished within stringent emission limits.