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Getting more value from recycled polystyrene

By Mary Page Bailey |

Although polystyrene has been adopted into a large number of end products, it remains one of the least-recycled plastic waste streams — an estimated 95% of polystyrene materials are discarded after a single use. Employing a proprietary thermo-catalytic process, GreenMantra Technologies (Brantford, Ont., Canada; www.greenmantra.ca) is planning to build a demonstration plant that will recycle 1,000 metric tons per year (m.t./yr) of polystyrene waste into salable end products. Construction for the plant is slated to begin in 2018.

The styrenic polymer products resulting from GreenMantra’s recycling process have been validated for use in ink applications, and initial investigations also indicate that the technology could be augmented to produce materials for construction applications, such as insulation. The process chemically transforms polystyrene waste streams by selectively lowering the molecular weight (chain length), creating a homogeneous product. According to GreenMantra, this is the first technology of its kind to target and produce styrenic polymer products from waste polystyrene on a large scale. Existing end-of-life options for polystyrene include energy production via incineration, or processes that produce lower-value products, such as densified, ridged polystyrene plastic or styrene monomer. Waste polystyrene is the primary raw material for GreenMantra’s process, and the company says is has achieved 90% yield of its target polymer products with minimal production of byproducts.

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