The first step of recycling foam waste is to separate the waste foam material into either ‘contaminated’ or clean categories. As ‘contaminated’ foam waste could have paper labels, staples, sticky tape or colour stain on it, or been used to carry fish, plants, fruit or vegetables. Clean foam has no extra labelling or marks and will have been used to package electrical goods or car parts or similar items.
Both clean and contaminated foam packaging can be recycled but the process is different so it is vital that the two are separated.
Recycling companies will collect foam packaging for recycling once a sufficient quantity has been stored up. Some will take the packaging exactly as it is, other will want the packaging compacted.
Compaction foam can be compacted to one-fortieth of its original size for easy, cost-effective transportation. Companies such as Sony or Hitachi have a compacting machine installed on their sites to compact foam packaging before it is collected by the recycler.
The Recycling Process
The recycler feeds the compacted blocks of foam into a granulator which crushs the material into smaller pieces. The material is passed into a blender for thorough mixing with similar granules. This material is fed into the extruder, where it is melted. Colour is added and the extruded material is then moulded into its new shape, such as strips of wood replacement to build garden benches.