Ahead of the third round of the United Nations plastics treaty talks, in Kenya, the North American expanded polystyrene industry said it will be at the negotiations as it touts $185 million in investments to boost recycled content.
A Nov. 6 announcement from the Crofton, Md.-based Expanded Polystyrene Industry Alliance said the investments have developed new grades of resins that could have more than 30 percent recycled content.
And it suggested its new statement was aimed in part at the treaty talks, with EPS-IA Executive Director Betsy Bowers saying she hoped treaty decision makers and environmental groups would "take notice" of the plans.
Bowers will be part of a delegation of EPS industry officials at the talks, which start Nov. 13 at United Nations' offices in Nairobi. She will be acting as spokesperson for the Global EPS Sustainability Alliance, the group said.
While the industry statement did not mention it, polystyrene and EPS packaging materials have been singled out by some groups at the talks that want restrictions on them because of recycling difficulties.
A U.N. science report prepared for treaty diplomats in 2022 said PS and EPS packaging could be put on lists of so-called "problematic" plastics and noted they were not recycled "in practice and at scale."
As well, other parties in the talks have pointed to problems recycling EPS packaging and have advocated for it to be put on those restricted lists.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency figures say that about 6 percent of PS packaging is recycled in the U.S., although that figure includes more than EPS packaging.
The new EPS-IA statement noted the industry collectively has spent $185 million to develop technology to integrate recycled content from EPS packaging into new applications, with 79 million pounds of capacity currently and projections for another 150 million pounds set to come on line.
It said resin producers Rapac, Epsilyte, Styropek, Nexkemia and BASF all have proprietary formulas with EPS recycled content above 30 percent.
"In response to the surging global demand for recycled content resins, we've witnessed remarkable technological innovations across various industries," said David Wilson, purchasing manager at Rapac, in the statement. "Notably, the green building sector has embraced using recycled-content resin for insulation, offering an eco-conscious solution without sacrificing quality."
Bowers attended the previous round of the treaty talks, in Paris in late June, which she described at the time as more of a listening session for the industry. The Nairobi round will be the third of five planned formal negotiating sessions.
"Recycled content resin will further reduce EPS' environmental impacts with even lower energy use, and a smaller carbon footprint," Bowers said. "Despite long standing misconceptions, EPS recycling has a strong track record that will now see even more growth."