The Waste Sleuth Investigates Polystyrene Recycling

Plastic Recycling Inc., and “The Waste Sleuth,” Todd Sutton, partnered to investigate a Plastic Recycling Inc. foam recycling plant in Indianapolis.  This recycling facility is in a central location and accepts foam from all over the country, including California and New York.

What makes the facility unique is that it collects dirty and clean polystyrene foam, as well as rigid and expanded polystyrene foam, making transporting the foam easier. Before the foam reaches the recycling facility, it is combined into 900 to 1200 pound bales for transportation. This method of packaging allows for weight and density to be optimized, which means more foam is being shipped. When these bales reach the facility, the recycling process takes about thirty minutes.

The first step is to break apart the bales into individual pieces. In this step, a light sensor is used to detect foam from non-foam pieces and divide the pieces accordingly. After the separation, the polystyrene is grinded into smaller pieces and put into a washer, where the foam is washed of any contamination. From the rinse station, the foam is put into the float-sink tank, where the expanded polystyrene will float on top and the rigid foam will sink to the bottom to ensure the different polystyrene is treated properly.

After the rigid and expanded polystyrene foam are separated, the foam is sent to the extruder and screened one last time for any remaining contaminants. Then the foam is melted down into a playdough-like substance. This substance is cut into pellets and cooled. The newly formed pellets are then shipped to companies to create different products.  The products these pellets are transformed into range from picture frames, tape dispensers, and receipt paper rolls to molding and many more products.

Plastic Recycling Inc. opened this facility in Indianapolis to help Indiana reach its foam recycling potential. Currently, Indianapolis recycles about 60 million pounds of foam and rigid polystyrene, but Plastic Recycling Inc. believes it can do so much more.

This facility is one of many that can recycle polystyrene foam across the country. To find a foam recycling center near you, click here. Watch the investigation here.

Indiana Indianapolis