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Princeton Moulding turning post-consumer PS into frames

By: Gayle S. Putrich

May 20, 2014

New York City’s impending polystyrene ban isn’t stopping Gary Fredrick. He’s not even slowing down.

If anything, Frederick and Princeton Moulding Group LLC are speeding up, helping lead the industry charge to prove that PS can effectively be recycled. And they’re getting a little help from their friends to do it.

New Jersey-based Princeton Moulding, part of parent company Aflex Extrusion Technologies Inc., manufactures decorative picture frames and architectural moldings from recycled PS. The company designs, develops and manufactures its own tooling for custom work and has recently expanded into 24/7 operations.

To keep manufacturing going at that pace, Princeton is seeking foam wherever the company can find it, hauling it to the East Coast from as far away as Michigan. It’s worth it to transport the foam if it’s been compressed, he said, either thermally extruded or hydraulically compressed/thermally reduced into ingots or square blocks.

“It’s hard to find because I’m competing with China,” Frederick said. “Prices are going up. Chinese buyers are driving up the price, turning it into a commodity.”

But with the help of Dart Container Corp., Princeton Moulding might be able to back off a bit on PS purchases. While the New Brunswick, N.J. operation has always accepted drop offs of small amounts of foam, Dart is helping the company set up a larger, formal collection point for public drop offs.

Dart helped Princeton Moulding navigate local requirements and regulations once approval for the collection site was obtained from the landlord. Fredrick said he hopes to be up and running by the start of summer.

Organizing PS drop-off sites is nothing new for Dart, said Michael Westerfield, the company’s director of recycling programs.

The company hosts drop-offs at all Dart locations and is working on setting them up at Solo facilities. Dart acquired Solo Cup, maker of the iconic red party cup in 2012 for $1 billion. And Westerfield has been working to improve PS’s image, particularly regarding its recyclability.

“It’s an uphill battle, a real perception issue. It’s ingrained in people at an early age that it’s not recyclable,” Westerfield said. “That was a battle that we’ve had in New York City, especially with folks telling elected officials things that were incorrect. We’re saying no, it’s recyclable, we just need to give people access. That’s what we have to do everywhere.”

An amendment to the measure passed by the New York City Council in December 2013 gives officials a year to determine whether foam can be recycled in an “environmentally effective, economically feasible and safe” manner, or else the ban takes effect July 2015. New Yorkers throw away an estimated 23,000 tons of PS per year, according to city officials.

Even those who already know PS is recyclable sometimes need help.

“Some people don’t realize it’s recyclable and some people, even when they know it’s recyclable, they need help getting started,” Westerfield said. “When Gary Frederick contacted us for help sourcing, one of the first questions we asked was if he had a drop-off site. We have experience getting those done and promoting them so they get volume from the public.”

Dart is also hosting more than collection points. At the recently launched www.homeforfoam.com, people can learn about foam recycling, the equipment, markets and more, Westerfield said. And www.dart.biz/recycle lists company-owned and non-Dart locations for PS recycling drop-off, including Princeton Moulding’s new collection point.

With local permission secured and public awareness on the rise, Princeton Moulding still anticipates a few hurdles once with drop-off is up and running, though nothing too serious.

“The biggest issue is people putting things that don’t belong in there,” Frederick said, such as polyethylene foam and polyurethane. Heavily soiled PS also slows down the sorting process. “But the more you can collect the less you have to buy,” he said, so the by-hand nature of going through locally collected PS is more labor intensive, but worth it.

“It’s good for the environment and creates local jobs,” he said. “We’re really, really busy and that’s a good thing.”