The Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC) was formed under the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) in 2014 to support increased recycling of foodservice packaging made from foam polystyrene. FRC shares general information on foam recycling, provides technical resources and offers funding assistance to programs ready to start or strengthen post-consumer foam recycling. FRC members include resin suppliers, national restaurant chains, foodservice and packaging manufacturers.
The process to recycle foam is similar to that of other plastics. Post-consumer foam polystyrene as well as rigid foam polystyrene products, need to be ground, washed, and re-pelletized in order to get re-introduced as a manufacturing feedstock.
Although it has long been recognized that foam polystyrene products are a valuable commodity, the challenge of shipping a product that is 90% air from material recovery facility (MRF) to end market has deterred the recycling of this material.
Now, with recent developments in densifying equipment, it is possible to get recycled polystyrene material to markets in a more cost effective manner. For example, a 48-foot truckload of baled foam polystyrene weighs only around 16,000 pounds, whereas a truckload of densified foam polystyrene weighs 40,000 pounds.
FPI contracted with RRS to develop a grant program funding densification and handling equipment, and to provide technical assistance for organizations accepting post-consumer foam polystyrene foodservice packaging, as well as protective packaging.
As part of this work RRS built a framework of grant program rules and process documents (eligibility and selection criteria), grant application and information packages (foam recycling information, grant application, grant contract document), as well as developing a system for managing grant inquiries, proposal review and scoring, and funding recommendations.
Additionally, RRS provided outreach and communication efforts including press release development, website content, advertising design and placement, email blasts, as well as social media and webinar/speaking recommendations.
RRS worked with FPI on steady progress toward program implementation. Program process documents were developed in Fall 2014, and the request for grant applications was released in January 2015. There was a two month window to promote and disseminate the grant program information, and for interested parties to develop their proposals and submit their grant applications. The deadline to receive applications was March 15, 2015, with initial funding decisions made by the end of April 2015.
The FRC grant program received dozens of applications from across the US and Canada including public and privately owned MRFs, commercial collection and processing operations, community drop-off programs, school districts, and a few alternative management opportunities.
The first grant of $45,000 was awarded in May 2015 to Alpine Waste and Recycling located in the Denver, CO metro area. Alpine used the grant money to purchase equipment that compacts (densifies) foam polystyrene into bricks, making Alpine the first company in Denver to provide foam recycling services.
A second grant of $50,000 was awarded to Colchester County, Nova Scotia in July 2015. Colchester County is in the process of purchasing equipment and upgrading their MRF to begin recycling foam polystyrene products.
Additional funding opportunities and grant rounds will be announced as the FRC grant program continues, furthering the goals of FPI, FRC, and the increased recovery of foam polystyrene.