Testing mobile densification of EPS at Southwestern Ontario depots: is this a solution for your program?

Things are happening in the world of EPS!

The CIF is working with Second Wind Recycling (SWR) on a mobile densification collection study for Expanded Polystrene (EPS). To start, the study is taking place in Southwestern Ontario in municipalities including, St. Thomas, Tillsonburg and Woodstock starting in December 2019. Opportunities to join in on the pilot are still available.

This pilot will accept clean, dry, bulky packaging EPS at depots only. This doesn’t include any any single use polystyrene (PS) products such as PS coffee cups, meat trays and take out containers.

The pilot is ready to start up, but additional communities that are within 120 km of St. Thomas are actively encouraged to consider participation. Please see participant details below and contact Jessica Landry

What does mobile densification of EPS offer?

EPS is a costly, problematic material to recycle but it’s very prevalent in our residents’ homes. Its light weight and high volume make it expensive to transport. The material breaks apart easily during collection and processing resulting in very low yields and cross contamination in curbside programs. EPS also requires extensive sortation resulting in high processing costs.

Rather than collecting EPS at curbside, a better practice is often to collect it through a depot system as this can help reduce contamination, which is a key problem. Regardless of how the material is collected, buyers prefer to have the material shipped loose to allow for post collection sortation to mitigate improper sorting by residents, but this requirement incurs high collection costs.

A mobile EPS densifier has the potential to minimize some issues that have kept some municipalities from adding this material to their programs. The pilot involves a portable unit that will travel from depot to depot in the Southwest Ontario corridor. At these depots, the EPS will be sorted manually to meet end market specifications, then the material will be compacted on site into bales prior to transport to the end market. With these activities, it is anticipated that hauling costs will be lower and material quality will improve.

Expected study outcomes

This pilot will seek to determine the potential to reduce EPS collection and processing costs by sorting and densifying the material on site as is done in Western Canada. Learnings will be shared out through the CIF.

The study offers a collective benefit to the Province as it will provide Ontario based learnings regarding the true cost and diversion potential for mobile densification of EPS. It will help quantify the extent to which this offers a more cost-effective manner to manage this material rather than shipping loose EPS to market or collecting it curbside.

In addition to promoting diversion, this initiative will provide strategically important knowledge to help municipalities evaluate the benefits and impacts of adding EPS to their collection and processing operations – in advance and after transition (should they remain on as a service provider).

In Southwestern ON and interested in participating?

As noted above, there are still opportunities to participate in the study! Second Wind Recycling is looking for additional host sites within a 120 km radius from their home base in Southwestern Ontario. Host municipalities will pay a processing fee per cubic yard, but the host qualifies for a preferred ‘pilot’ processing rate. Participating municipalities are also responsible for:

  • Keeping the materials covered so they remain dry and out of the sun. Each municipality is expected to secure a shipping container (sea can) for this purpose.
  • Communicating the availability of the depot EPS drop off containers to their residents.

For more information, please contact Jessica Landry.

View a link to a video that demonstrates EPS densification that shows the phases of EPS densification and is the source of the photos below,.