Dart Container reports progress on polystyrene recycling

Published: May 29, 2013 12:14 pm ET
Updated: May 29, 2013 12:17 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Food service, Packaging, Recycling

Dart Container Corp. is one of the largest manufacturers of polystyrene foam food packaging, so maybe it’s fitting that the company also is a major player in foam recycling.

Earlier this year, the Mason, Mich.,-based company was given the Excellence in EPS Recycling Award from the EPS Industry Alliance, recognizing its “extraordinary commitment to the advancement of expanded polystyrene recycling.”

Dart says it has been recycling expanded PS for about 20 years and accepts post-consumer foam packaging for recycling at 18 of its plants worldwide.

The company collects more than 1.5 million pounds of the material annually, which is recycled and sold to manufacturers that turn it into crown molding, picture frames, agricultural material and other products, said Michael Westerfield, corporate director of recycling programs for Dart, in a phone interview.

Dart also operates foam cup collection programs for its customers.

The company has sold more than 2,800 of its Recycla-Pak program kits, Westerfield said. The kits contain two corrugated recycling bins and promotional information on foam recycling. The bins are used to collect foam cups and double as a pre-paid shipping container to send the cups back to Dart for recycling.

Dart’s Cups are Recyclable — or CARE — program is aimed at larger customers, like college campuses or hospitals. Customers collect used foam food service packaging in the bin and Dart picks up the material once a month for recycling.

The company is also working with school districts in California as part of the “Going the Extra Mile” foam recycling program. Schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Riverside Unified School District collect foam lunch trays and send them to Dart to be processed for recycling.

While Dart’s collection programs are great for customers, and bring in needed material, they aren’t reaching the masses, Westerfield said.

So in recent years, the company has turned its focus curbside.

About 71 million pounds of expanded PS was recycled domestically in 2010, including 37.1 million pounds of post-consumer and post-commercial material, up from 69.4 million total pounds in 2008, according to the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.

“Most people, when you talk to general public, they don’t even know foam is recyclable,” Westerfield said. “The fact that we’ve overcome that and grown in such a short period of time, that’s very positive.”

Los Angeles launched California’s first foam packaging recycling program in 2007. Seeing such a large city take on a material that was considered difficult to recycle made people realize that foam recycling is “something that has legs,” Westerfield said.

According to Dart, more than 65 cities in California have access to curbside expanded PS recycling and the number keeps growing. Based on population, about 20 percent of the state can put foam packaging in their recycling bin, Westerfield said.

 The company deserves some of the credit: Dart decided to invest in manufacturers and technology that could make it easier to recycle foam at municipal recycling facilities.

Foam is about 95 percent air, which can make it challenge to store and recycle. Recyclers use compacters, called densifiers, which use mechanical pressure to compress foam into smaller, workable units.

Dart has helped developed densifiers that can recycle foam of varying densities at the same time, and take care of everything from grinding onward in one step.

The compact densifiers have a small footprint and take up little room, so they can be installed in unused spaces in recycling plants, and are designed to cut down on labor.

They can be installed underneath sorting lines, so as soon as foam is removed from a line it can go down a chute and right into the machine or an automatic blower can move the material to the machine hands-free, Westerfield said.

The densifiers can also be leased to Dart customers that participate in the CARE program.

Much of Dart’s attention has been on foam recycling in California because the area already has relatively high diversion rates, and the company was also approach by California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to help improve expanded PS recycling rates, Westerfield said.

Realistically, foam recycling will take off in locations that have already conquered “low hanging fruit” and are looking to improve recycling more difficult materials, Westerfield said.

But he was hopeful that other areas will start embracing the material.

“A lot of people thought [expanded PS recycling] couldn’t be done, but it can be done, and the programs aren’t stopping, they’re expanding,” Westerfield said. “It’s possible and practical.”


Comments

Dart Container reports progress on polystyrene recycling

Published: May 29, 2013 12:14 pm ET
Updated: May 29, 2013 12:17 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Spain's Cristian Lay Group buys two materials units of bankrupt LSB

April 17, 2014 11:11 am ET

Spanish industrial conglomerate Cristian Lay Group has purchased two of the bankrupt Spanish PET packaging group La Seda de Barcelona.    More

EU moving closer to rules that will reduce plastic bag use by 80 percent

April 17, 2014 10:54 am ET

European Union countries could have to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags by at least 80 percent by 2019 under draft rules backed by the...    More

Image

British consumers still want their squeeze bottles when it comes to ketchup

April 16, 2014 10:02 am ET

Research commissioned by the British Plastics Federation's packaging group shows that when it comes to the nation's favorite tomato ketchup, 77...    More

With European Parliament vote looming, official urges bag restriction

April 16, 2014 9:56 am ET

Janez Potocnik, Europe's commissioner for the environment, told the European Parliament April 15 that plastic shopping bags are a “highly...    More

Image

Austria's Greiner building a foothold in the US rigid packaging market

April 15, 2014 1:22 pm ET

Greiner Packaging International GmbH, one of Europe's largest makers of rigid plastic packaging, now wants to make its mark in the United States.    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Automotive Market Review and Outlook 2014 The Americas

This 75-page report features in-depth analysis of the automotive industry for the Americas. It includes discussions of market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting production and threats as well as design strategies being implemented by the major automakers. Detailed charts and data tables outline North American automotive production over the last five years.

Learn more

Plastics Building & Construction Market Review and Outlook 2014 with MS Excel chart data

This report provides in-depth analysis of the plastic building and construction market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats and the latest developments in construction trends that impact plastics processors.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events