Is Polystyrene Foam an Eco-Friendly Option?
This #6 plastic is often found in the trash of Quebecers due to a lack of local recycling solutions, but it has some unique properties allowing it to become a key ally of environmentalists.
Solutions exist, and it is important for all of us to take advantage of them in order to benefit from expanded polystyrene’s (EPS) – also known as polystyrene foam – many advantages, making it one of the most commonly used materials in our daily life: protection packaging, insulated boxes and meat trays, insulation boards, etc…
To Use and Reuse EPS Correctly is a Green Gesture
A study on the environmental impact of packaging material, carried by the CIRAIG[i], Trucost[ii] and other independent organizations shows that EPS manufacturing requires less water, energy, and raw material than paper or cardboard packaging. There’s more: EPS is 100% recyclable, and an increasing amount of innovative recycling technologies allow maximizing the process’s efficiency and profitability while improving the quality of the final recycled material.
Used responsibly, expanded polystyrene’s ecological footprint is surprising, and makes this material a smarter choice for the protection of the environment.
One of the most important factors of EPS’s low environmental cost is its weight: its volume is 2% material; the rest is air! This unmatched lightweight means that using EPS allows fuel savings during transport, reducing greenhouse gas emission.
Commonly used as packaging material, not only for its lightness, but also for its impact resistance, insulation properties, and its water tightness, EPS is indispensable in the food industry as it allows a better food conservation, reducing food waste such as fish and meat, which, as we all know, have their share of environmental costs. In addition, as opposed to cardboard food packaging, EPS can be washed and reused by the consumer, or even recycled, as long as it is sorted and not reused in the food industry for sanitary safety.
Furthermore, EPS contains no harmful gas for the ozone layer. It is a non-toxic and inert organic polymer made of hydrogen and carbon, making it harmless for earth’s inhabitants when managed responsibly.
Don’t Place It in the Household Trash!
Indeed, EPS can be harmful to the environment if it is not reused, recycled or upgraded after being used. This is why it is critical to avoid filling dumps with polystyrene waste by making sure to bring it in ecocentres or other depots where they are accepted if they are not by your municipality’s recycling services.
Circular Economy and Expanded Polystyrene’s Life Cycle
As opposed to traditional linear economy, which is summed up by “manufacture-use-dispose”, EPS can and must be part of a sustainable and responsible economy in which end of life materials are reused, recycled or upgraded.
EPS’s complete life cycle shows it is an ecological option for each step: it requires few raw materials, little water and energy for its manufacturing and transport, allows reducing heating needs and preserving food due to its insulating properties, and it can be upgraded or reinserted in the manufacturing line at the end of its useful life.
Polyform, an ECORESPONSIBLE Organisation
Polyform implemented a complete service for polystyrene and polypropylene waste collecting and recycling in partnership with Polyvert Recycling, and created its own recycling plant in 2012 as part of its sustainable development action plan.
Granby’s citizens can bring their clean expanded polystyrene packaging directly at Polyform’s location at 454, rue Edouard, in the dedicated recycling bin. Elsewhere in Quebec, consumers can bring their polystyrene waste in ecocentres where EPS is accepted. You can visit your city’s Info-collect webpage, or search RECYC-QUEBEC’s database or mobile app Ça va où?
In regard to industrial #6 plastic waste, Polyform put in place many collection programs for larger quantities. You can see our available programs here for more information.
International Reference Center for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services – www.ciraig.org
S&P Trucost – www.trucost.com