Expanded polystyrene (EPS) resin producers in North America have collectively invested more than $185M in technologies for recycled content EPS feedstock, advancing sustainability in many sectors. Leading resin producers RAPAC, Epsilyte, Styropek, Nexkemia and BASF have all developed proprietary formulas that will allow EPS fabricators to incorporate ≥30% recycled content in the manufacturing of many applications. Seventy-nine million pounds of online capacity is already serving North American markets, with projections for an additional 150 million pounds of capacity. Three of the resin producer’s recycled content products are third-party certified and some are looking at traceability technology to be used in next-generation formula iterations.
Chemistry-driven innovations have made these advancements possible. Recycled content resin offers equal performance properties to virgin materials, thereby reducing the use of virgin materials and reducing environmental impact. The recycled content will be used in the manufacturing of many products including protective packaging, bicycle helmets, construction, drainage and septic aggregate and more. Some EPS molders have conducted successful trials with the recycled content resin and are planning to be market-ready by 2024.
Recycled content EPS has been technically achievable for some time, but historically end users have not been motivated to use it. That trend is changing. With more stringent policy recommendations stemming from national governments, there is mounting pressure for the private sector to take a second look at recycled content capabilities.
EPS resin producers are prepared to meet recycled content mandates and extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation. This commitment to the development of sustainable solutions reinforces environmentally responsible EPS production and positions them well to comply with future regulations.
“In response to the surging global demand for recycled content resins, we’ve witnessed remarkable technological innovations across various industries. Notably, the green building sector has embraced using recycled content resin for insulation, offering an eco-conscious solution without sacrificing quality. With a promising growth forecast, recycled content resins are making a substantial impact on sustainability worldwide,” said David Wilson, Purchasing Manager at RAPAC.
“This new product offering has the potential to be a game-changer for the EPS industry”, said Betsy Bowers, Executive Director of the EPS Industry Alliance (EPS-IA), the North American trade association leading the expanded polystyrene (EPS) industry. “Recycled content resin will further reduce EPS’ environmental impacts with even lower energy use, and a smaller carbon footprint. Despite long standing misconceptions, EPS recycling has a strong track record that will now see even more growth.”
In March 2022 at the UN Environment Assembly, a historic resolution was adopted to develop an international legally binding treaty on plastic pollution, which could have a global impact on many of the day-to-day products used by consumers and manufacturers. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), which is developing the treaty, will hold its third session (INC-3) from November 13-19, 2023 at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
“As we look towards INC-3, decision makers and NGOs should take notice of this excellent news and the EPS Industry’s continued progress for increased sustainability” added Bowers, who will attend the session.