Recycling of Polystyrene Waste: CreaSolv Process as a Solution to one of America's Major Waste Problems


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost 138,000 tons of polystyrene cups are thrown away in the US every single year. Just to put this into perspective, this weight equals the mass of 3,185 trucks or 587 Boeing 747-8 planes. This number is just the tip of

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost 138,000 tons of polystyrene cups are thrown away in the US every single year. Just to put this into perspective, this weight equals the mass of 3,185 trucks or 587 Boeing 747-8 planes. This number is just the tip of the iceberg as the huge amount of packaging material and food packaging made from Polystyrene is not yet added to this figure.  Another issue is the light weightiness of the foam cups compared to their volume, which is why they take up a lot of space in America’s landfills. This problem is made worse as Polystyrene is not biodegradable and up till now it has been hard to recycle this waste. Consequently, countless tons of polystyrene waste piles up into big mountains at America’s landfills. And the waste would stay there for the next thousands of years if no profitable and environmental friendly recycling method would have been developed.

Polystyrene has many advantages

Packaging made from Polystyrene is very popular – especially in the food sector. This is because the material is very light, versatile and above all very cheap. One cup made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) has an average price of about 2 cents. A comparable cup made from a biodegradable material costs five times as much. No wonder there was an outcry in the American catering industry when the first major cities such as San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Miami Beach started to fully ban polystyrene products. One of the reasons for this ban is the difficulty of recycling this waste in a profitable and yet environmental-friendly way.

CreaSolv® Process recycles polystyrene waste residue free

The two German companies EPC Engineering Consulting GmbH and the CreaCycle GmbH in collaboration with the renowned Fraunhofer Institute (IVV Freising) have found a solution to this problem: The CreaSolv® Process. Recycling plants which are equipped with this technology can recycle any type of polystyrene waste – regardless of the contamination degree of the material. With this technology the target plastic is dissolved with a solvent formulation. The liquid is then filtrated and cleansed in numerous steps. The outcome is ultrapure polystyrene which can then be processed into granulates. The end product is odorless, has virtually no residue and can be used without major limitations.

„With this technology we now have an economic and ecological material cycle for polystyrene waste for the first time ever,” explains Jörg Hamann, technical director at EPC Engineering Consulting GmbH, a subsidiary of the EPC Group. “Previous recycling methods were only able to use clean input streams. They had to be prewashed and sorted in numerous and complex steps, and the end product was still neither pure nor odorless.”

Jörg Hamann further states that, depending on the type of residue left on the polystyrene waste, the presorting and prewashing of the waste could even be omitted if the CreaSolv® Technology is implemented.” By means it can handle input streams which cannot be cleaned with conventional technologies. However, it can also be used as an additional process step to existing installations. Basically, all existing polystyrene products could be recycled at the same time and in one run – no matter if it is EPS, GPPS (General Purpose), HIPS (High Impact) or XPS (Extruded Polystyrene). The produced granulate would still be of very high quality and comparable with polystyrene which has been produced for the first time. It is however recommendable to have a tailor-made presorting, prewashing and CreaSolv® plant configuration for each individual input stream to achieve the best economic return.

CreaSolv® Process reduces our carbon footprint

Polystyrene is obtained from crude oil. Because of this the recycling of this plastic is not only worthwhile, but also necessary regarding the preservation f our natural resources. Through this recycling process our natural resources are conserved and the environment is protected. According to TÜV Rhineland (the German technical inspection association) the CreaSolv® method emits up to 50 percent less carbon dioxide compared to the incineration of the polystyrene waste. This new recycling technology is ready for use and can also be integrated into existing recycling plants.

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About the EPC Group

The EPC Group is an internationally active engineering and plant construction company as well as a provider of innovative technologies. The company's activities are focused on the planning and realization of infrastructure projects and industrial plants in the chemical, polymers and fibers, renewable energies, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, cryogenic plants and technical gases industries. With a tradition going back more than 140 years, the EPC Group today has over 300 highly motivated employees spread out at eight German locations as well as representative offices in Russia.

It is the combination of experience, research and development that lead to successful innovations in engineering and industrial plant construction. From process development to planning, implementation, maintenance, and modernization, the EPC Group is setting up plants worldwide that are both state-of-the-art and socially responsible. In doing so, the company is constantly developing innovative ideas and creative solutions to overcome the various challenges of its customers, in keeping in line with its motto "Ideas Inside"  

CreaSolv ® is a registered trade mark of the CreaCycle GmbH, Germany