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Recycle Your EPS

The EPS industry developed a nationwide collection infrastructure of more than 200 collection sites to support recycling efforts. The 2012 EPS Recycling Rate Report shows that over 93 million pounds of EPS were recycled in 2012, including 36.7 million pounds of post-consumer packaging and 56.9 million pounds of post-industrial packaging. Over the past decade EPS has achieved an average recycling rate of 15%, one of the highest of the plastics family.

EPS can easily be recycled into new foam packaging or durable consumer goods like cameras, coat hangers, CD jewel cases and more. You can recycle your EPS packaging by taking it to a specified drop off location (a program may NOT exist in your area).

Drop-Off Recycling

Numerous EPS-IA members and some recycling businesses collect EPS for recycling. EPS-IA member Sonoco Protective Solutions is going the extra mile to make recycling EPS easier for consumers. The EPS packaging supplier created an on-site closed-loop recycling program at their Indianapolis facility. Consumers can drop off their EPS where it undergoes a densification process. Fellow EPS-IA member NOVA Chemicals is also doing its part to raise awareness, which can be seen in a recent interview on Pittsburgh's CBS news affiliate.

The majority of EPS recycling locations listed are intended to serve as outlets for EPS packaging only. Each EPS collection site has distinct criteria regarding the types of material they accept. Food service EPS materials are usually NOT accepted. To make sure you have a successful EPS recycling experience, we recommend the following:

  1. Once you have identified the closest collection site, call for drop-off times and check to see what types of polystyrene material they accept.
  2. Make sure your EPS is clean and free of any tape, plastic film, labels, loose parts or glued-on cardboard. Empty any coolers or other EPS cartons since food or medical waste is prohibited.
  3. Check to see if they accept other recyclables to streamline your recycling efforts.

Mail-Back Recycling

Because of challenging transportation logistics and high contamination rates, there are a limited number of community-based collection programs that accept EPS. That’s why EPS-IA has created a unique mail-back program that allows virtually anyone with smaller quantities of foam packaging access to EPS recycling.

If there is no EPS recycling in your community, please send your EPS via the U.S. Postal Service or other carrier to the nearest mail-back location.

Average shipping fees range from $1.50-$9.00 based on the total packaging weight and volume. Since expanded polystyrene is extremely light weight (98% air) it can be economically shipped to a regional location. Considering that the average car gets approximately 15-20 miles per gallon (mpg) at $3.50 to $4.00 per gallon, the postage cost to return EPS for recycling is often an economical, environmentally-friendly choice depending on the distance covered to reach the closest community drop-off location.

To maximize your EPS recycling efforts via the mail-back option, we recommend the following:

  1. Make sure the EPS is clean and free of any tape, plastic film, labels, loose parts or glued-on cardboard. Do not return any film plastics, food or medical waste or trash.
  2. Increase the amount of EPS in each shipping container by breaking or cutting it into small pieces so that more can fit in a box.
  3. When shipping EPS biomedical coolers, completely empty the cooler. Tape the top and bottom pieces together with packing tape and apply the label and postage directly to the cooler. An outer box is not necessary.
  4. AFPR does not accept meat trays, cups, egg cartons or other disposable food service items for recycling.
  5. Prepare a shipping label and affix postage for delivery to the nearest mail-back location.
  6. To facilitate shipping from home, the United States Postal Service (USPS) provides numerous options for printing labels and /or postage using online resources. This convenience also allows you to have the shipment picked up by your local carrier as outbound mail and further minimizes environmental impacts.