Recycling foodservice polystyrene products offers some unique challenges. The light weight of the PS foam is one of the biggest stumbling blocks, and so is contamination. I remember interviewing the some leaders of the now-defunct National Polystyrene Recycling Corp. back in 1992. One told me that NPRC had spent $60 million between 1988 and 1992 to set up and promote its PS recycling infrastructure, and yet it had only managed to recycle about 35 million pounds of material. Not exactly a great return on investment. So I'm not surprised to see this story from the Oakland Tribune today, reporting that GB Industrial Materials Corp., the only company in the Fremont-Union City area to collect plastic foam for recycling, will no longer allow people to make drop-offs at its Union City plant. "People leave all the garbage bags in our parking lot and on weekends. Many times we come in in the morning and are like, 'What is that?,'" owner Christina Liu told the newspaper. "We are short-handed. This is very labor-intensive work." GBIM Corp. specializes in importing and exporting thermoplastics, including both virgin and recycled material. The company wasn't alone -- the story points out that other companies that recycle PS foam are in Oakland, Redwood City and Stockton. Plastics News has written stories about successful PS recycling programs, as has our sister newspaper Waste & Recycling News. (Here are a few). But with PS bans spreading across California (24 California towns and two counties have banned PS takeout packaging), the news that a drop-off program in one community is scaling back is bad news for the foodservice packaging sector.
Another bump in the road for PS recycling
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