Revolutionary Foam Recycling Technology Helps California Reduce Its Carbon Footprint

One company is revolutionizing the way people can recycle polystyrene foam. Plastics Recycling Inc. (PRI)—based out of Indianapolis—is urging people to think of foam and plastic as the same thing, at least when it comes to disposing of them.

PRI’s Indianapolis warehouse is filled with hundreds of bales of plastic containing polystyrene foam and solid plastic items like red Solo cups, egg cartons, and coffee cups. Polystyrene foam—not to be confused with Styrofoam, a registered trademark of Dow Chemical Company—is used frequently for food packaging and always labeled with the #6 marking.

When recycled, polystyrene foam can be used to make items like rulers, surfboards, garden nursery trays, and picture frames.

PRI buys the plastic waste from many states, including California, and keeps it out of landfills by recycling it. The process begins by breaking up the bales, removes non-polystyrene material, chops it into colorful re-grind (think confetti), and then it is washed and separated yet again in a sink float tank, utilizing gravity.

“The [foam] is lighter so it floats to the top. And the harder plastic sinks to the bottom,” says Fred Read, PRI’s general manager.

Once the plastic is through the sorting and washing process, it’s pelletized, and then is ready to be sold by the ton in any color to companies like 3M and Rubbermaid.

Foam Recycling