A new recycling facility in Indianapolis, IN will create major recycling opportunities for residents and organizations throughout the U.S. Plastic Recycling Inc. (PRI), one of the largest recyclers of polystyrene foam materials, recently opened a center dedicated to recycling foam cups, take-away food containers and packaging material collected from curbside residential recycling programs across the country. When discussing polystyrene foam, most consumers refer to it as Styrofoam®, which is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company and used for insulation not food containers. Polystyrene foam is a common material used to make single-use foodservice items because itinsulates better than other materials, has favorable environmental attributes, and it is relatively inexpensive.
The new PRI facility, which will be fully operational by the end of the first quarter in 2015, is meant to allow local government agencies to easily include foam in their residential collection programs. By adding foam to their programs, agencies are able to remove discarded foam material from their local waste streams, and generate new revenue to put back into their communities. According to Alan Shaw, the owner of PRI, the company “currently [recycles] about 60 million pounds of foam and rigid polystyrene materials annually but [has] the capacity to do so much more.” Shaw is encouraged that many cities have already taken steps toward to developing resident recycling programs through promoting curbside pick-up of used foam products, including several in California. He states, “The residential recycling stream has been largely untapped by our competitors and we view it as a tremendous source for more of this valuable material.”
Several other areas within the U.S. will be looking for new solutions to eliminate excess waste in landfills and create new economic opportunities in the coming months, including New York City. As mandated by law, NYC is expected to test different foam recycling methods throughout 2014. PRI’s new facility and collection program may be a viable solution for the city. PRI has partnered with Dart Container Corporation to build the facility, and hopes to partner with new cities and organizations to fulfill needs. Dart Container is no stranger to developing new programs to spur foam collection efforts. For instance, their CARE (Cups Are REcyclable) program specifically promotes the recycling of single-use foam cups for their customers. Through the CARE program, Dart customers are able to lease their own densifying device to compress foam waste to a fraction of its original size, which is later collected by manufacturers for production needs.