Category Archives: News

Teen takes to stage to talk about EPS recycling tech

A new process of recycling expanded polystyrene for use as a filter medium was the subject of a recent TED talk. But the presenter was a bit younger than your typical plastics recycling executive.

Ashton Cofer, one of four teens from Ohio who developed the patent-pending process, spoke during a six-minute presentation published online this month. He presented at a December 2016 event put on by the New York City-based nonprofit group TED, which helps spread ideas via on-stage talks.

The four youths won thousands of dollars in multiple high-profile contests for their research. They developed a process through which EPS is recycled into activated carbon with a surface area of 108 square meters per gram of material.

In the process, foam is first densified by heating at 300 degrees celsius for five hours. Then, it’s broken into smaller pieces and bathed in phosphoric acid, which creates micropores. Lastly, the material is again heated to 400 degrees celsius for five hours. The material is then used in what the teens are calling the Styro-Filter.

The youths won the 2016 FLL Global Innovation Award presented by XPrize, which brought them a $20,000 award.

They also earned a STEM-in-Action grant through a competition called eCYBERMISSION, which is sponsored by the U.S. Army. Teams winning those awards receive up to $5,000. A project write-up for that event includes details on their trials and the recycling process.

Additionally, the team won the Scientific American Innovator Award from the Google Science Fair competition. That award provided a $15,000 scholarship, to be split among the four teammates.

Plastics Recycling Update wrote about the team and its research when it was a Google Science Fair finalist.


Grant helps EPS recycling in Georgia

A $29,000 grant will help increase expanded polystyrene recycling in Athens-Clarke County, Ga.

The money from the Foam Recycling Coalition will be used by the local solid waste department to purchase EPS densifiers to compact the EPS into condensed bricks, the coalition said.

EPS is about 95 percent air, so densifying the material helps with the economics of shipping and recycling the material.The EPS densifiers will be used at the district’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, or CHaRM, located just north of downtown Athens. Continue reading

The Basics of EPS Recycling – An Interview with Dart Container Corporation

By Rick LeBlanc

Recycling Expert

Within the realm of plastic recycling, expanded polystyrene (EPS) remains one of the more controversial materials in public discussion. Because the material is 95 percent air, the reverse logistics of EPS recycling can be very expensive and thus a considerable hurdle to successfully closing the loop for recycling success.Michael Westerfield is the corporate director of recycling programs for the Dart Container Corporation, which began working with expanded polystyrene (EPS) in the late 1950s.Today, Dart is the world’s largest manufacturer of foam cups and creates a variety of food service containers. But Dart’s mission only begins with manufacturing foam cups; the company takes responsibility for the full life cycle of its product and as such, Dart also operates an aggressive program to decrease its carbon footprint and increase EPS recycling.Recently, Westerfield took the time to answer a few questions about EPS recycling basics.

Q: Can you discuss the various steps in the process for recycling EPS?


Step 1- Collection- Here are some options:

Recycla-Pak (This is a U.S. mail-back program in which customers purchase a corrugated container from Dart that serves as a foam cup collection device as well as a shipping container). We now have sold more than 2,648 kits. Each kit holds two collection devices. For more information, please go to

CARE (The Cups Are REcyclable program helps large end-users of foam foodservice products collect and compact their post-consumer foam so it can be recycled).

This program has spread to fourteen states plus Canada and we now have thirty-nine participants. For more details, please go to

Drop-off Locations- For a list of drop-off locations operated by Dart for foam, please go to

Curbside Recycling- Dart has been leading the charge to make curbside recycling for foam efficient for cities. For a list of CA cities that offer curbside recycling for clean foam foodservice containers, please go to

Step 2- Densification (Compaction)- Foam is 95% air so a full 48′ semi trailer of loose foam will only weigh ~1,000 lbs unless it is compacted. These special densifiers compact the foam so that 40,000 lbs will fit on a trailer.

Step 3- Pelletize- The densified foam is put into an extruder that melts the foam and extrudes it into spaghetti type noodles which are then chopped into pellets.

Step 4- Use the pellets to make new products like upscale picture frames, crown molding, pens, etc.

Q: Who are the primary supplier of your EPS recycling equipment?

A: It depends, we have 18 different facilities recycling foam in some capacity and they use different equipment.

Q: Why is recycling EPS a challenge or a controversial issue in some areas?

A: The key obstacle for recycling foam is that it is 95% air. While this results in a small carbon footprint, filling a 48′ trailer with 1,000 lbs of loose foam is not economical. The solution for this challenge is densification equipment, which has improved greatly over the last 10 years in terms of price, throughput, and efficiency.

Q: For communities that want EPS recycling, what are the best first steps?

A: Find a market for your foam and then design a program that satisfies their demands.

What is EPS Densifier?

EPS densifier does exactly what it sounds like: it uses one of several methods to remove the air from EPS foam (and keep it that way).

Several types of EPS densifiers exist:

• Hydraulic EPS densifiers use hydraulic pressure to compact foam. A series of rams compress the foam until the memory is gone then extrudes the foam as a dense log. Because hydraulic densifiers don’t use heat, this technology won’t produce smoke or odors and can process various densities of foam at the same time, a particularly appealing feature for community foam recycling programs.

• Thermal EPS densifiers use heat, melting the foam into a taffy-like state, and then extrudes the foam in the form of a rope. This material must next be placed in a container so it can be molded into a shape that can be stacked on a pallet. While these machines are effective, the smell of the heated foam “taffy” can be an issue, and additional labor is required for molding the material.

How Styrofoam Compactor  works

• EPS cold densifiers use an auger to push foam through a chamber, a process that compacts the foam into the form of a log/block. This machine can present some complexities, since the speed and pressure must be adjusted based on the density of the foam being processed. If not adjusted properly, the log will be too light or it will melt in the machine and cause it to stop working.

EPS Cold Densifier

EPS Cold Densifier

Densified EPS

2012 EPS Recycling Report

Many are not aware EPS (expanded polystyrene) packaging is recyclable – and is Domestic EPS Recyclingbeing recycled successfully by businesses and consumers across the United States. The 2012 EPS Packaging Recycling Rate Study (the “Rate Study”) was conducted by the EPS Industry Alliance (EPS-IA). The 2012 results reflect a modest decrease in the number of post-consumer pounds recycled, and a substantial increase in the number of post-industrial pounds recycled based on data received from fifty one EPS manufacturers and independent recyclers in the United States.

EPS Recycling Rate Increased

EPS recycled during calendar year 2012 is more than 93 million pounds.This figure includes 36.7 million pounds of post-consumer packaging and 56 million pounds of post-industrial recovery. Post-commercial recycling is defined as any material that is recycled after its intended end-use. Post-industrial recovery includes EPS facility scrap that is recycled but never served its intended end-use as a packaging material. Since 1991, EPS recycling has demonstrated a stable baseline, incremental growth and steady end-use market developments. This growth can be attributed to innovative and sustainable programs specifically geared to EPS recycling. Businesses and consumers play a shared role in reducing the amount of packaging material that enters the waste stream by doing their part to recycle. Through this integrated approach – with everyone doing their part – increased recycling is achievable. As compared to the 2010 Rate Study, 2012 showed an increased incremental growth in the amount of post-industrial recycling.This is supported by a steadfast reliance on high volume sources and proves the success of industry recycling efforts in the United States.Advances in EPS recycling technology, collaborative collection programs and new end-use markets have continued to broaden EPS recycling opportunities. In addition,the EPS industry fosters ongoing development of new and innovative recycling technologies that will promote further EPS recycling growth.These include recycled content resin and unique volume reduction technologies that are showing great potential. Continue reading

McDonald’s to phase out Polystyrene hot beverage cups

McDonald’s Corp. aims to eliminate the use of millions of polystyrene hot beverage cups in the United States following a successful large scale test of paper cups.

With more than 14,000 restaurants around the country, the decision is huge.

The nation’s largest restaurant chain has been testing double-walled paper cups for hot beverages at a couple of thousand restaurants since early 2012, according to As You Sow, a non-profit group that revealed McDonald’s decision on Sept. 25. Continue reading

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