A large increase in the amount of expanded polystyrene packaging recycled through a mail-back program the past 18 months has triggered the industry association running the program to expand the number of mail-back sites from one to 34.
Under the program, consumers and small businesses can break down their EPS material such as home or biomedical coolers or packaging from televisions, computers and electronic equipment and ship the material at their own expense in a cardboard box to be recycled.
The expansion of mail-back sites, effective Sept. 1, marks a remarkable turnaround for a program that started in 1995, struggled, and was downsized to a single mail-in address. That site was at the headquarters in Crofton, Md., of the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.
In 2005, AFPR only received 63 boxes of material, each typically weighing 2-3 pounds. But in the first seven months of 2008, it received 676 boxes of material more than the 594 boxes it received for all of 2007 and dramatically higher than the 136 it received in 2006, said deputy director Virginia Lyle.
Lyle said participation in the program is about equally divided between consumers and businesses, but businesses send a greater number of boxes.
``It is becoming clear that more and more people want to do this,'' Lyle said. ``We are trying to make it a little more convenient and cheaper'' for businesses and consumers to recycle EPS.
She added that the typical cost for someone to ship EPS is between $1.50 and $9.
The expansion provides 34 mail-in locations in 20 states. AFPR also has a number of drop-off sites. Site lists are available at www.epspackaging.org/info.html.
The association estimates that 10-12 percent of EPS packaging is recycled annually.
Those who plan to recycle EPS through AFPR sites should make sure the material is clean and free of tape, film, labels, loose parts or glued-on cardboard.
The association does not accept disposable EPS food-service items or egg cartons.