New EPA Report Published: Polystyrene Foam Recycled at Low Rates in US

This summer the EPA published a report entitled, “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures 2013.”  This report is one EPEAT checks for recycling rates in the US.  Criterion 4.8.2.2 in both the 1680.2 and the 1680.3 standards.  Analysis of this report shows that polystyrene foam (PS or Styrofoam) is still not considered recyclable because it doesn’t meet the required national recycling rate of at least 15%.  Criterion 4.8.2.2 (Packaging 90% compostable/recyclable) considers a material “recyclable” if it meets one of 3 criteria in a country. The 2015 EPA report (using data through calendar year 2013) provides evidence for the US that polystyrene (PS) does not meet the 1st criterion: material is recycled at a national rate of at least 15% by weight.

This report (Table 7, p. 58) breaks down polystyrene packaging into 3 categories, plus aggregate of 3 categories with the following % recovery:

Plastic containers No data
Bags, sacks, wraps Negligible
Other plastic packaging        9.7%
Total 5.7%

Polystyrene for packaging of electronics would fall into the last category. While this category has the highest recovery rate (9.7%), it falls short of the 15% recovery rate required in this criterion.

If you have questions please contact Erin Gately at erin.gately@greenelectronicscouncil.org.