By Ian Perrotta
Styrecycle might be a new business in town, but it’s tackling an age old problem — what do you do with polystyrene foam after it’s been used?
The answer: turn that trash into cash.
After opening a few months ago, that’s just what Styrecycle has been doing in its plant at 3901 Christopher St.
“Our objective is to deal with difficult-to-recycle products from the municipal and commercial waste stream,” says co-owner Mark Haron. “With polystyrene being one of the major problems due to logistics and weight.”
If you’re scratching your head wondering what polystyrene foam is, don’t worry — you probably know it by its brand name of Styrofoam. But regardless of what you call it, the material still emits toxic fumes when burned and can take up nearly 5 percent of a landfill’s space.
Instead of those alternatives, Styrecycle uses a cold densification system that compacts the polystyrene down to 1/50th of its original size. The foam is shredded, blown into a feeder bag and then inserted in the densifier, where a “hot process” solution is thrown into the mix. Once the mix has been processed and extruded, any remaining granules are recycled for reuse.
Though Styrecycle can’t currently offer cash to individuals for their recycling, it can help businesses save money on waste removal by taking polystyrene away from commercial spots at no charge. It can also save communities the cost of disposal, all while helping the state become landfill- and incinerator-free.
“We save companies money by reducing dump fees and fuel costs, while saving space in the few landfills left,” says Haron. “We also help reduce the cost of cleaning the environment when polystyrene becomes a danger to the ecosystem.”
Of course, any business needs to make money, and Styrecycle is no different. In order to do so, it plans on recycling polystyrene foams for companies that use the material, and — in an ingenious business move — sell it right back to them.
“We hope to receive polystyrene from all types of industries and home use,” says Haron. “As well as produce products for packing electronics, furniture, appliances and other goods.”
So far, business has been good and interest in the company high. Since word has gotten out, Styrecycle has gotten a lot of inquiries from companies interested in its service, and it has been working out the logistics of transporting the product economically.
Fortunately, Styrecycle chose to operate in Hamtramck not only because of its proximity to other compatible recycling projects that are scheduled for the future, but also due to its accessibility to all major freeways. And with plans to add a hot extrusion system specifically for memory foam, it seems like the business can only get bigger.
“Currently we are hoping to have five people per shift on our first densifier,” said Haron. “But we plan to add people and shifts as we grow and expand our recycling facility with other equipment to handle other difficult waste stream elements and recyclable products.”