Saturday, May 3, 2008

Recycling polystyrene

Is it really in a business' best interest to recycle? Yea, it's politically correct and "green" to recycle, but will it help their bottom line and save money? The amount of energy it takes to recycle materials is paramount to the whole ideology of recycling. I mean, what's the point of recycling something, if it's going to use an obscene amount of resources and energy to do it? People want recycling, but they seldom ask the million dollar question: "What's the opportunity cost of doing so?"

Based on an industry report, the current polystyrene market in the US alone is over 7 billion dollars. Polystyrene is a versatile plastic that has been around for over 150 years. A petroleum based plastic, polystyrene is one of the most common organic polymers being produced today. Everything from CD cases, plastic utensils, foam packing peanuts, insulation boards, food containers and coffee cups are made from polystyrene.

When used as a foam (extruded or expanded), polystyrene's attributes are: low cost of production, high insulating value, and low weight. Unlike its virtuous cousin, polyethylene, which is recycled extensively:
"The majority of polystyrene products are currently not recycled because of a lack of suitable recycling facilities. Furthermore, when it is 'recycled,' it is not a closed loop — polystyrene cups and other packaging materials are usually recycled into fillers in other plastics, or other items that cannot themselves be recycled and are thrown away."

I believe EPS and XPS can be recycled simply, efficiently and economically; through a simple three step system:
  1. Shred and wash
  2. Heat and glue
  3. Press and extrude

1 comment:

Casey said...

i'll press and extrude you!