Image: still from London Drugs, YouTube
Packaging made from expanded polystyrene (EPS), brand named Styrofoam by Dow, saves tons of emissions during transport, due to its lightweight, impact absorbing capabilities. Styrofoam is so lightweight, that it has been called "engineered air." But the question of how to recycle expanded polystyrene has plagued municipalities and responsible businesses making packaging decisions.
London Drugs, a major retailer in Canada, offers a solution. Customers can return styrene foams to their local stores for recycling. If you can disregard the condescending introduction by "your London Drugs Green Deal Blogger," and the annoying toast-shaped vignette technique, the video below provides some real insights into the challenge of styrofoam recycling.
Video: London Drugs, YouTube
The fundamental problem in recycling expanded polystyrene is the "dark side" of the benefits of being light weight: it requires too much space to ship it to a central recycling facility, and large volumes must be handled to return only a small quantity of commodity styrene for reuse. It is much easier to haul it to the nearest landfill and quit.
London Drugs has made an end-run around the problem by cooperating with Genesis Recycling to process the lightweight EPS into condensed "pucks" which can then be sold into the commondity markets. The program has been running for 18 months now, and London Drugs is sharing how the program works to mark the milestone of having kept 50,000 pounds of polystyrene out of landfills.
Although achieving inspiring ends, the recycling process shown in the video lifts the veil on the underbelly of many so-called green jobs. The operators must wear breathing equipment as they work in a snow of polystyrene particles. Certainly, workers in the recycling industry can be proud to be part of better waste management instead of working at jobs like chick-sexing to bring home a paycheck. We only hope that consumers realize and appreciate that someone is making that effort on our behalf.
The EPS recycling is part of a long-running commitment by London Drugs to take back many items -- from batteries to bulbs and cartridges to computers -- for recycling. According to London Drugs, the program costs money in spite of turning the EPS into a saleable commodity.