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Asked & Answered: Recycling Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Foam

Recycling Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Foam

Recycling Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Foam
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Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) are made up to two different types of materials EPS foam and polypropylene plastic webs. One of the questions we frequently get is whether Styrofoam™ or EPS foam can be recycled. All ICFs use some recycled material. Recycled material is mixed with new virgin material and manufactured into ICFs and other goods.

One of the reasons EPS is such a great insulation is that it is 95% air. This makes EPS foam very light and easy to transport, but it takes lot of space in both distribution and in landfills. Recycling removes it from landfills and puts it back to use again.

How does EPS foam get recycled?

The process of recycling EPS foam begins by feeding the material to a shredding machine via conveyor belt. Once shredded, the EPS foam enters a plastic extruder where the foam is exposed to heat and pressure to melt the EPS foam. This process if called densification. Subsequently, the melted EPS foam passes out through a small outlet at the end of the extruder and solidifies into a spongy continuous form.  

This dense material is then packaged for transport back to a bean manufacturer to make its way into new products. This form of EPS can then be easily transported to the required factories for remolding (again using heat and pressure) into its new EPS products. Many of the facilities that produce EPS foam in the United States and Canada recycle 100% of the foam. Most are Zero Landfill facilities.

What happens when you can’t recycle it anymore?

Once material can no longer be recycled for use as EPS beads after many cycles, the material is densified again and sold to manufacturers of other goods such as trash bags and other products.

Video: The Recycling Process