Used in thousands of different ways by individuals and businesses around the world, expanded polystyrene (EPS) is relied upon to provide superior performance in various foam product applications. Whether used as protective packaging for fragile items during shipment, as custom insulation in building applications or even as a bicycle helmet, EPS is serving an important role in our everyday lives.
- EPS meets five of the criteria for sustainable packaging based on the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s definitions. View our EPS Sustainability Checklist for full details.
- The 2010 EPS Recycling Rate Report shows that over 71 million pounds of EPS were recycled, including 37.1 million pounds of post-consumer packaging and 34.2 million pounds of post-industrial packaging.
- In 2010, more than 50% of all EPS collected for recycling was used to make recycled-content packaging.
- EPS is made of 98% air and is an inert material without harmful chemicals that off-gas or leach during its use of disposal.
- EPS represents less than 1% of the total municipal solid waste stream by weight and volume.
- Available in a variety of custom-molded shapes, EPS containers are water resistant and hygienic with high thermal-insulating properties. Which is what makes it a common choice for shipping food throughout the world.
Several Fortune 500 companies have made efforts to implement recycling and sustainability programs.
IKEA – IKEA, already known around the world as an eco-friendly company, has recycling centers in most of their stores. They have bins for recycling materials such as light bulbs and cardboard. After EPS-IA distributed the EPS Sustainability Toolkit, an IKEA store in Seattle took the initiative to expand their center even further. That store now allows consumers to bring in their EPS packaging for recycling. To have the support of a company as green as IKEA is a huge boost for the EPS industry.
Walmart – Just after the launch of the EPS Sustainability Toolkit, Walmart implemented a closed-loop EPS recycling plan. They piloted the program in a Las Vegas distribution center, then expanded it to Texas within a few months. The collected material is being used to create recycled picture frames, which will in turn be sold exclusively in U.S. Walmart stores. In addition, Walmart has expressed interest in distributing the EPS Packaging Insert to its suppliers that use EPS. These actions show huge potential with Walmart.
Sears Holding Corporation – Upon receiving the EPS Sustainability Toolkit, Sears Holding Corporation became interested in using these materials to expand its EPS recycling program. This is particularly important in light of their 2008 discussions to eliminate EPS packaging for Kenmore appliances. That elimination is now on hold pending the creation of a larger EPS recycling effort.