Polystyrene recycling is focus of consortium’s effort

Polystyrene recycling is focus of consortium’s effort

International partnership proposes system to recycle postconsumer polystyrene food packaging.

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September 21, 2018
Edited by Brian Taylor

A trio of companies from different nations has announced a partnership designed to recycle polystyrene packaging collected in consumer curbside and drop-off recycling systems and from sources such as restaurants, offices, schools and universities.

The three entities behind the effort are Canada-based ReVital Polymers; Canada-based Pyrowave and Germany-based INEOS Styrolution. The announcement was made in mid-September at the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada.

According to the three firms, the collaboration will use “advanced recycling technology pioneered by Pyrowave that will close the loop by recycling single-serve polystyrene packaging and utilizing recycled polystyrene in the manufacturing of new products and packaging.”

Polystyrene is commonly used in foam form as rigid packaging and in containers, cups and utensils in supermarkets and take-out food service applications. ReVital, Pyrowave and INEOS Styrolution say their proposed system can “change the way postconsumer polystyrene packaging is recycled in an integrated, restorative and regenerative manner that maintains the material’s highest utility and value within a circular economy.”

ReVital Polymers Inc., Sarnia, Ontario, says it will install Pyrowave’s catalytic microwave depolymerization (CMD) technology as part of its plastics recycling process. Pyrowave’s microwave machine can convert ReVital’s sorted postconsumer polystyrene packaging to a liquid that contains plastic building blocks, called monomers, that can then be used by INEOS Styrolution. 

INEOS Styrolution makes and supplies polystyrene for various food service packaging applications and consumer goods products. INEOS Styrolution will process the material from ReVital and Pyrowave in a final step to return it to virgin resin designed to be then used in any new polystyrene application. 

“This is a game changer for consumers and for municipal and industrial, commercial and institutional recycling programs,” says Keith Bechard, chief commercial officer at ReVital Polymers Inc. “Polystyrene packaging, regardless of color, food residue or odors, can be successfully added to recycling programs. When these materials are shipped to ReVital, they will be recycled into a high-value material that closes the loop. For ReVital, this project is an opportunity to increase our range of acceptable feedstock, increase the recovery rate for residential and commercial recycling programs and increase our value proposition to customers.”

“Although we know there is a lot of polystyrene waste around us, surprisingly the challenge we face is the lack of available material because it is not properly recovered,” says Jocelyn Doucet, CEO of Pyrowave. “Pyrowave’s technology expands the range of acceptable polystyrene feedstock, making it possible to build a new value chain that links ReVital’s processing expertise with INEOS Styrolution’s global end-market capacity.”

The trio of companies says it would like to send the signal that postconsumer polystyrene can now be accepted through various collection programs, and that new technologies like Pyrowave’s are generating chemicals used by the manufacturers as feedstock to make new products and close the loop.

“INEOS Styrolution is extremely excited about this project, which brings together major players across the value chain with a smart solution to recycle polystyrene through new innovative technologies,” says Ricardo Cuetos, vice president, Americas, Standard Products, with INEOS Styrolution America LLC. “Chemical recycling enables us to close the loop and prevents valuable waste from entering our lands, waterways and oceans.”