EPS is one of the most hotly debated materials when it comes to recycling. The main ingredient air itself is very flexible, effective in reducing product damage, and inexpensive. However, the same properties make recycling more expensive because it takes up a lot of space.
In addition, this light weight makes it easy to be swept away by wind or water, which exacerbates the marine plastic problem. Unsurprisingly, it's banned in more than 100 communities. EPS is an attractive material for product packaging because it is strong but light, is an effective insulator, and its structure protects the product from impact damage.
In addition, EPS recycling via Nicsons Building Products uses less energy and water to produce than paper alternatives. The same properties that make EPS so popular also make recycling a challenge: namely, its low density, which can make closing loops very expensive. EPS is made up of 98 percent air, which can be very expensive to transport in bulky, hard plastic forms.
It must be sent to a facility where it can be compressed. Once the material is compressed it becomes much cheaper and saves time to recycle and reuse over long distances. However, density is not the only problem. Cleanliness is a constant issue with EPS recycling. Materials must be free of impurities before they are compressed or cause quality problems for the end user in the future.
Considerations range from the sustainability impact of potentially large product damage and associated carbon footprint as well as the economic costs on one side of the debate if EPS packaging is not used to the dilemma of marine plastic sustainability and solid waste production.