On February 23, the Alberta Plastics Recycling Association presented at a Recycling Council of Alberta workshop on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) recycling in Cochrane. The session included other presenters with first hand experience in EPS recycling including two of the three cities in Alberta who have established EPS recycling programs, Cochrane and Aquatera in Grande Prairie.

Grant Cameron and Tammy Schwass from APRA presented on a number of factors including educating the 15 attendees from across the province on the different types of plastic foam packaging, as well as the challenges of EPS recycling, collection and transportation. They also talked about the successes of APRA’s member programs including the launch of EPS recycling with Plasti-Fab, who recycles EPS from The City of Airdrie and Van Houtte Coffee.

APRA was able to share a few of the lessons-learned as a result of aiding in the establishment of those programs. One lesson shared is that storage capacity is critical. Because EPS is high-volume, you need to have the space to store it before enough has accumulated to fill a full truck load for transportation. Depending on the recycling equipment, not all post-consumer material is eligible for recycling. Airdrie had to decline EPS food containers because they could be dirty, or contaminated with food the recycling equipment is unable to process. White EPS cushion packaging was determined as the best material to take to the recycled market and the most common. In terms of the operation of the program, there needs to be a motivated supervisor or program champion willing to monitor the materials coming in and to ensure collection runs correctly.

The keys to establishing these programs and recommendations to anyone considering starting a program includes working backwards from markets and processors to:

1.    identify a receiver,

2.    assess generation,

3.    determine collection/densification/storage/transportation,

4.    design and maintain an education program,

5.    move the materials to market and,

6.    strive to increase capture.

For anyone interested in more detailed information on EPS recycling, please contact the Alberta Plastics Recycling Association, albertaplasticsrecycling@gmail.com.