WASHINGTON - The recycling rate for expanded polystyrene foam packaging rose in 1995 for the fifth year in a row, in part because of an increase in the number of collection centers, according to a new industry survey. The overall recycling rate for the custom-molded foam stands at 10 percent, with 24.1 million pounds recycled last year, according to figures compiled by R.W. Beck, a Seattle-based engineering and consulting firm.
Since the alliance of foam packaging recyclers began pursuing recycling efforts in 1990, when 1.5 million pounds were collected, the volume of packaging has increased to 10.3 million pounds in 1991 and 23.1 million pounds in 1994, according to the group, an arm of the Foamed Polystyrene Alliance.
Compared to the 1.5 million pounds collected in 1990, the new figures are in part a reflection of a recycling infrastructure for post-consumer EPS packaging put in place five years ago, said Andrew Hoffman, alliance director of member services.
For an industry still lacking an independent recyclable market, the alliance oversees a national network of 200 collection points designed to let manufacturers incorporate the material back into their production stream.
With the advent of new technology, only recently have manufacturers been able to economically process recycled EPS foam, said Bob Mallon, vice president of sales and marketing at Marko Foam Products.
New equipment for grinding and mixing the post-consumer foam back in with the virgin material is starting to make recycling cost-effective.
``Only recently has that become a fairly viable economic situation,'' he said.