An unusual team including New York state officials, a phenolic resin maker, an aerospace company and a plastics research company have joined to support a new idea for recycling expanded polystyrene foam. Benjamin Mosier, president of Houston-based Institute for Research Inc., a plastics research company, said he has developed a process that will allow EPS to be reused in construction and building applications at a reasonable cost.
The process, called ENCAP, involves encapsulating waste EPS with phenolic resins. The process renders them moldable, and higher in fire-retardant and insulating properties.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has signed a $253,000 research contract with Mosier's firm to mount a demonstration-sized plant to produce sheet and board products using the new process.
Mosier said the demonstration project, which will produce about 25 million board feet of insulating foam board per year, will be set up at the Schenectady International Inc. chemical facility in Schenectady, N.Y., by August.
Schenectady International developed special phenolic resins used in the process, and will join with the Institute, Clearvue Resource Management Ltd. of Amsterdam, N.Y., which will provide the waste material, and Rockwell International Inc.'s Collins Avionics and Communications Division, which developed the curing process for the encapsulated materials, to provide matching funds.
``The process is simple,'' Mosier said. ``Ground, recycled, expanded polystyrene, or other mixed plastics, are mixed with the phenolic resin, poured into a mold of the desired size, and cured by radio frequency heating.''
He said the resulting material is almost twice as dense as ordinary EPS, and it has greater structural strength. Possible applications would include insulation sheathing for walls and roofs, insulated concrete forms and stress skin panels. It also can be bonded with other materials such as wood.
``Traditional recycled foam is produced for about 28 cents to 38 cents per board foot through the extruded method,'' Mosier said. ``We feel that we can produce this for 28-30 cents per board foot, and it has a density of 3.5 pounds per cubic foot, as opposed to about 1.6 pounds per cubic foot for the traditional material.''
The cost was of concern to some EPS producers Mosier approached with his process for support, primarily due to the nature of blowing agents necessary to attain relatively high ``R'' value insulating properties.
``In the past you might have used a [chlorofluorocarbon] blowing agent in the phenolic matrix,'' said a source at Dow Chemical Co.'s plastic division, who requested anonymity. ``But we were interested in more `ozone-friendly' blowing agents, and if we did that, the cost increased to attain the same R value.''