Green Styrene: Recycling, Energy Recovery & Disposal
Handling Options Following Product Use
At the end of their useful lives, styrene-based products can be handled in one or more of the following end of life options: reuse, landfill, recycle and energy recovery. Given styrene’s many different uses and derivatives, there is no single handling option that is a silver bullet which makes sense for all applications, so it is important to evaluate each application and then select the alternative that is both ecologically and economically sustainable. In fact, any single option may not always be the best choice. Source
- Polystyrene can be recycled up to 20 times without significant loss of its inherent properties and beneficial qualities. Source Despite the reality that recycling polystyrene can be costly and technically challenging, the industry is making significant progress. Examples include recycling efforts in:
- Building and construction applications, where some foam polystyrene manufacturers recycle factory waste into insulation boards. Sources
- Packaging foam applications — post-consumer and post-industrial polystyrene foam is being recycled successfully by businesses and consumers across the United States. Source
- European vending, foodservice and plastics industries — there are a several active recycling initiatives in France, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom which collect and recycle used polystyrene cups, cutlery and plates. Sources
- Polystyrene foodservice packaging—Numerous innovative recycling programs are in place across the U.S. For example, more than twenty percent of Californians can recycle polystyrene foam at curbside, including foodservice items such as foam cups and take-out containers. Residents simply clean and toss them in the blue bin with their other recyclables. Sources
- For SB Rubber, about 45 percent of the used vehicle tires in the United States are recycled and others are reused and/or retreaded. In addition, a majority are either sent to energy recovery facilities or landfills for final disposal. Source
- Plastic loosefill (“packaging peanuts”) currently contains a minimum of 25 percent recycled polystyrene and at least 30 percent of all plastic peanuts are reused at least once. Manufacturers initiated a recovery and reuse program in 1991; it continues today. Source
- Since ABS is widely used in appliances and electronics, such as refrigerators, computers and telephones, ABS recycling has begun to increase in recent years as a part of local and national appliance recovery initiatives. Source
- The European composites industry is working to develop ways to reuse and recycle composite materials and has set up successful recovery options for using waste in cement kilns. Source
- SB Latex is used in carpet and paper production. While paper is commonly recycled, the latexes used as paper coatings are not typically recovered as a part of the recycling process. Source For carpeting, however, components from used carpets can be recycled into applications such as carpet padding, molded products and carpet backing. There are also successful recovery options for using these wastes as in energy recovery applications such as cement kilns. Source
DID YOU KNOW?
Styrene-based materials are enhancing motoring safety worldwide, including composites used to build bridge components that last longer, road safety barriers that transmit energy away from the source of impact and rubber for tires with a better grip on pavement, wet or dry.