Is Plastic Foam Recyclable? EPE, EPP, EPS Foam Recycling

2022-08-30 | Technical Blog | By Resul Gökpınar |

Plastic foam materials are often used in many different daily life applications including packaging, logistics, construction, food and beverage packaging, and stationery applications.

These wide usages of plastic foams also bring the question of whether the foams are recyclable. The short answer is yes, most of the foams such as EPE, EPP, and EPS foams are technically recyclable.

What are the types of plastic foams that are recyclable?

Polymer-based foams are recyclable. The three foam types that are commonly used in production and recycled by foam recycling machines can be categorized as follows.

  1. EPS foam

    Packaging buffer Styrofoam recycling
    ( EPS foam packaging buffer )

    EPS foam (expanded polystyrene foam) is the foam version of polystyrene polymer, which is a white plastic foam primarily used for food and beverage packaging, shipping, stationery applications, etc. EPS foam or expanded polystyrene foam is also commonly known as Styrofoam. Styrofoam, indeed, is a trademarked name for a type of EPS. This foam material consists of rigid and lightweight structures and contains up to 95% of air.

  2. PE foam (EPE)

    Polyethylene foam, also known as expanded polyethylene (EPE) is a resilient, durable, odorless, and lightweight foam made of PE polymer. The main properties of PE foams can be mentioned as well insulation, vibration protection, and resistance to chemicals and moisture.

    PE foam rolls recycling
    ( Polyethylene foam rolls )

    PE foams are often used for the packaging of fragile goods as well as for heavy goods, electronic products, tools, and machinery. We can also see PE foams in the applications such as floating pool noodles, floor underlays, shock absorbers, sports equipment, and so on.

  3. PP foam (EPP)

    PP foam material recycling
    ( PP foam material )

    Polypropylene foams, also known as expanded polypropylene (EPP) are famous for their rigid yet flexible structure, flexibility for low and high temperature, and moisture and chemical resistant characteristics. That makes PP foams very convenient to use in applications where durability and lower mass are needed. Therefore, we often see PP foams or EPP in cushioning, heavy-duty packaging, automotive components, thermal, and sound insulation applications.

Recommended machines for foam recycling

POLYSTAR recommends two easy-to-operate recycling machines for foam recycling for different requirements.

  1. Repro-Flex cutter-compactor plastic recycling machine

    POLYSTAR’s Repro-Flex cutter compactor integrated plastic recycling machine provides a one-step recycling experience since cutting, extrusion and pelletizing processes can be done in this machine. The built-in cutter-compactor cuts the materials into small pieces, pre-heats them with frictional heat, and prepares the extrusion materials.

    Repro-Flex ensures the feeding consistency of the plastic materials during the entire recycling process. As the first step, materials are fed to the cutter-compacter via an auto-controlled belt conveyor, which automatically adjusts the feeding speed based on how full the cutter compactor is. From the cutter-compactor, materials are directly fed into the recycling extruder stably with centrifugal force.

    PE foam rolls recycling

    Just after extrusion, on the pelletizing unit, the speed of the pelletizing knives is also automatically controlled based on the extruder pressure to ensure stable granulating and uniform size pellets. The harmony in the entire system brings stable operation and uniform high-quality pellet outputs. This is important for pellet reusability.

  2. Repro-One shredder integrated recycling machine

    Repro-One shredder integrated recycling machine makes the recycling process of big-sized materials easier for the recyclers and plastic producers. The plastic recycling system is consisting of shredding + extrusion + pelletizing steps in one step; which provides time, and factory space as well as minimizes labor intervention.

    foam plastic recycling pelletizing system

    The single shaft heavy-duty shredder eliminates the requirement of pre-crushing of large-sized, hard-to-crush materials. The speed variation of the shredder allows it to handle materials of different sizes, shapes, and thicknesses while working at low processing temperatures for minimal change in the material properties.

Thanks to the direct connection of the shredder to the recycling extruder, the plastic materials are fed into the extruder easily. After the extrusion and pelletizing steps, the uniform and high-quality pellets with minimal degradation can back to the production lines or be traded in the market.

We have briefly mentioned the general specifications of two POLYSTAR plastic granulator machines that are suitable for foam recycling. On the other hand, plastic foams are varied in terms of material types, expansion rates, sizes, and shapes. To find your customized plastic granulator machine for foam recycling, please contact POLYSTAR and we will help you find a simple solution.

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About the Author
Resul Gökpınar

POLYSTAR’s International Sales Representative

Resul creates up to date content based on his experience, gained by solving customers problems from Turkey and EMEA market.

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