2013 EPS Recycling Rate Report Reflects Substantial Increase in Post-Consumer Recycling


Many are not aware expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging is recyclable – and is being recycled successfully by businesses and consumers throughout the United States. The 2012 Expanded Polystyrene Recycling Rate Study (the “Rate Study”) was conducted by the EPS Industry Alliance (EPS-IA). To better track EPS recycling trends EPS-IA gathers data to reflect both post-commercial and post-residential collection streams. Based on data received from forty-one EPS manufacturers and independent recyclers in the U.S., the 2013 results reflect a modest decrease in the amount of post-industrial pounds recycled and a substantial increase in the number of post-consumer pounds recycled.

Read the entire 2013 Recycling Rate Study.

As reflected in Table 1, more than 125 million pounds of EPS was recycled during calendar year 2013. This figure includes 72.8 million pounds of post-commercial and post-consumer packaging and 54.5 million pounds of post-industrial recovery. Post-consumer and post-commercial recycling are defined as any material that is recycled after its intended end-use – while postindustrial recovery includes EPS facility scrap that is recycled but never served its intended purpose as a packaging material or other end-use application.

Since 1991, EPS recycling has demonstrated stable, incremental growth and steady end-use market developments. This growth can be attributed to innovative and sustainable programs specifically geared to EPS recycling. Businesses and consumers play a key role in reducing the amount of packaging material that enters the waste stream by contributing to a shared-responsibility approach to recycling. 

As compared to the 2012 Rate Study, 2013 showed a notable growth for post-consumer and postcommercial recycling. This is supported by a strong reliance on high volume sources and proves the success of industry recycling efforts in the United States. Advances in EPS recycling technologies, collaborative collection programs and new end-use markets have continued to broaden EPS recycling opportunities. In addition, the EPS industry fosters ongoing development of new and innovative recycling initiatives that will promote further EPS recycling growth. These include recycled content resin and unique volume reduction technologies that are showing great potential.

As shown in Figure 2, the EPS packaging recycling rate percentage continues to grow steadily, showing a dependable track record to deliver consistent results. In fact, when comparing rigid, durable polystyrene (PS) and other grade materials, EPS post-consumer and post-commercial recycling represent 47% of all post-use polystyrene recycled in the U.S. and is one of the highest within the plastics family.

Read the entire 2013 Recycling Rate Study.