Expanded polystyrene, or foam plastic, has long been a difficult good to recycle, but Weisenbach Recycled Products has found a way to turn post-consumer plastic waste into a functional and creative product.
Their recycled P.S. stick pen is now commercially available .
“About three years ago, we started talking with the recycling folks at Dart Container… They were stepping up their operations to collect and process more post-consumer foam plastics — all expanded polystyrene foam plastics — not just their used foam cups,” says Dan Weisenbach, president of Weisenbach Recycled Products.
“Dart seemed to take on the challenge of extended producer responsible for the entire foam products industry, even providing the solution and taking in their competitors’ products for recycling. As much as I was impressed by their enthusiasm, I was also struck by the challenge of what to do with all the recycled plastic resin they were recovering. At the time, it wasn’t possible to go back into food service products, indeed that may still be the case.”
With what seemed like few options, Weisenbach and his company started experimenting. First, they tried injection molding the recycled polystyrene to make office products and household items. While that had limited success, they found the most success with extruding a 50/50 blend of virgin material and the recycled plastic as a hollow tube. According to Weisenbach, the hollow tubes “came out with a smooth, consistent surface, took paint well and we were able to print highly detailed text and graphics around the circumference,” making the perfect foundation for a pen.
Customers must purchase at least 250 of them, like many wholesale products, but P.S. pens include a custom print of a logo or message along with the tagline: “This pen is made of 50% post-consumer recycled foam plastic.”
Weisenbach Recycled Products certainly isn’t stopping at pens. ”Our goal as a company is to produce useful products from recycled materials. We actually seek discarded items and commodities which don’t already have viable solutions once recovered from the waste stream,” Weisenbach says.