The practicalities of recycling Styrofoam

Separation
The first step is to separate the waste Styrofoam material into either ‘contaminated’ or clean categories: ‘Contaminated’ Styrofoam could have paper labels, staples, sticky tape or colour dye on it, or been used to carry fish, plants, fruit or vegetables. Clean Styrofoam has no extra labeling or marks and will have been used to package electrical goods or car parts or similar items.Both clean and contaminated Styrofoam packaging can be recycled but the process is different so it is vital that the two are separated.

Collection
Recycling companies will collect Styrofoam packaging for recycling once a sufficient quantity has been stored up. Some will take the packaging exactly as it is, other will want the packaging compacted.
Compaction Styrofoam can be compacted to one-fortieth of its original size for easy, cost-effective transportation. Companies such as Sony orHitachihave a compacting machine installed on their sites to compact Styrofoam packaging before it is collected by the recycler.

The Recycling Process
The recycler feeds the compacted blocks of Styrofoam into a granulator which chops the material into smaller pieces. The material is passed into a blender for thorough mixing with similar granules. This material is fed into the extruder, where it is melted. Colour is added and the extruded material is then moulded into its new shape, such as strips of wood replacement to build garden benches.

Who Recycles Styrofoam?
Major electrical and car manufacturers, such as Sony, Panasonic, Sanyo, Hitachi and Honda and leading electrical retailers like Thorn Rentals and Granada, all have successful, cost-effective Styrofoam recycling schemes. There are more than twenty companies recycling Styrofoam packaging in theUK, each with different requirements in quantity and form depending on the end application.

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