Polystyrene foam in its common form are the take-out plastic cups from fast-food chains or egg cartons and so on that we often use. In fact all manufacturing companies rely on this material to serve their packaging requirements.
Reliance on EPS is already an environmental issue because lots of its by-product has already reached landfills. When EPS is left in landfills, the material resides indefinitely and never decomposes nor disintegrates. Thus, recycling is necessary even when this may not be a practical solution.
How to recycle Styrofoam (polystyrene) is not as easy as it seems. EPS or plastic #6 is actually made from styrene which is a by product of petroleum. It is very light since only 5% is styrene while 95% compose of air that makes it very effective as an insulation and packaging material. Recycling EPS follows a very delicate process.
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1. All waste Styrofoam or polystyrene foam materials are taken out of collection centers and shipped to the recycling facility. All contaminants are removed; this includes paper, food crumbs and even tapes.
2. Sorting takes place to separate clean materials from dirty or soiled waste. Materials that do not pass the clean sorting process are sent for washing.
3. Next is the grinder that turns the waste EPS into fluff. Other EPS material that is not yet clean are rewashed and dried.
4. The is then fed into the heat and friction machinery to remove all the air.
5. The melted material enters the die with small openings and together with pressure the fluff is extruded and results in polystyrene strands.
6. The EPS strands are then cooled with water and then chopped into pellets.
7. The resulting pellets are then shipped to manufacturers to be used as raw material for the production of almost everything from toys to sun visors to motorcycle helmet padding and even as building insulation. The use of recycled Styrofoam raw material is practically endless.