Expanded polystyrene has proven stubbornly uneconomical to recycle, but Augusta, N.J.-based Foam Cycle has an affordable solution that can be added at any municipal transfer station or community location. Earth911 talks with Foam Cycle founder and CEO Lou Troiano about the self-service foam collection and recycling system his company has installed in several communities around the country. Expanded polystyrene, also known as expanded plastic #6 or by the Dow Chemical trademark Styrofoam in its blue form, is 98% air, so it takes a lot of foam to produce a usable amount of the recycled resin. In traditional waste-sorting facilities, it is impractical to sort and clean foam so almost all the 1,500 tons Americans produce each day goes into landfills.
The Foam Cycle system fits in a shipping container. Troiano says that people who drop off foam at the New Jersey and Florida locations where Foam Cycle has systems generally place clean packing and food service foam in the system. The $75,000 units are financed by municipal waste management systems and entrepreneurs — Foam Cycle seeks public-private partnerships — and will break even in four to five years based on typical usage. Troiano shares that religious organizations are expressing interest in the system to help their communities deal with an intractable recycling problem and to raise funds for their ministries. A ton of the processed resin sells for between $300 and $500. If you’re interested in solve its foam recycling challenge, check out Foam Cycle.