When recycling, we often give numbers to the materials recycled. Number 1 is soda and water bottles, number 2 is laundry detergent and other containers and number 4 is plastic bags. Then, there is also foam #6 which consists of packaging material for electronics and furniture, food trays and containers, foam cups, egg cartons, foam peanuts and medical coolers, all made of Styrofoam. This type of foam is also commonly referred to as polystyrene, expanded polystyrene or EPS foam.
Polystyrene is one of the most common forms of plastic. The material is a mixture of about 98% air and only 2% polystyrene; it is water and heat resistant, therefore it is an excellent insulator. Due to its popularity, the global demand for EPS and its production is increasing and therefore the need for recycling methods.
While the foam peanuts can be recycled by reusing it, all the other EPS materials need to go through a recycling process that reduces its volume. In order to recycle it, the material needs to be inspected and all other contaminants are removed. Then, the foam is fed into the recycling machines either for cold compaction or thermal densification. The foam can be compacted for volume reduction using a compactor, without using heat. The result is dense logs or bricks that achieve 98% volume reduction. If using the thermal method, the foam is fed to a densifier machine. The densifier uses heat and friction to melt the foam. The machine then uses pressure to push the material into small opening, then extruded as long narrow strands. As soon as the recycled foam is cooled it is cut into pellets which make it easier to be transported. The recycled foam is then shipped to other manufacturers for creating new plastic products.
Recycled foam Number 6 is a great source for creating new cost-effective materials and products. For instance, it can be utilized to create picture frames, pens and office supply, clothes hangers, curtain rods, outdoor furniture, CD cases, toys and pony packs for growing and transporting seeds and plants. It is used for creating interior and exterior architectural mouldings, ornamental home décor and SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels). Recycled EPS can also be mixed with wood or concrete to serve as excellent building insulation agent, since it is water, mold and decay resistant or it can be used to produce additional foam packaging material.
Using recyclable foam rather than the raw original material to create new products has many benefits. It saves natural resources, it reduces littering and pollution, it saves landfill space and uses less energy. Recycled foam has real value for manufacturers of new products willing to pay well for the recycled material. Recycling foam has become much easier and more efficient in recent years with the advances in technology; recycling equipment now reduce the volume of the foam by up to 95% its original size and requires much less labor than it used to in the past. Recycling basically results in reduction of landfills and creates a more sustainable green environment for us all.
Source by Sig Barnea
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