XPS recycling - How to Recycle Foam Board Insulation - RUNI

Uncompacted XPS
Uncompacted XPS

XPS Recycling - How to Recycle Extruded Polystyrene

What is XPS?

 XPS stands for Extruded PolyStyrene. It is a lightweight cellular rigid plastic foam or thermoplastic.

This is a material widely used as insulation boards, especially within the construction industry. For example for the insulation of buildings, roofs or concrete floors. XPS is quite popular due to its great resistance to water, both cold/heat and pressure, as well as its long-term reliability and durability. 

Also it is know to be energy-eficient, easy to install, and very easy to recognize with the well known colors of the XPS foam sheets. 

The density of XPS is normally between 25-45 kg/m3. 

XPS not compacted

XPS Is Helping to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Extruded polystyrene foam insulation can help reduce energy loss in buildings, and hereby help to reduce the amount of energy that is required to maintain a certain temperature in the house.

In other words - the more widespread the usage of XPS foam for insulating. the more we can save by reducing natural resources, as oil, gas or coal.

How Do You Recycle XPS?

Earlier both incineration and landfill were the way XPS was disposed of - BUT as it is light in weight, very large in size, corrosion and age resistant and a chemically stable product - it is not at all easily degraded by microorganism and these traditional ways are therefore not recomendable. There are, however, many good reasons to recycle foam boards of XPS

Used XPS can be recycled, for example by melting it, and re-insert it into the production of new extruded polystyrene foam insulation. 

The manufacturing plants of XPS produce basically no waste XPS as this is simply re-pelletized and introduced back into the production system. 

The process for styrofoam insulation recycling starts after the usage of the product. When it has finished its function the XPS is collected and compacted. As XPS insulations boards consists of a very high percentage of air, it would be extremely expensive to transport or store without compacting it first. Transporting without compacting first would also be very costly for the environment. 

Foam board recycling also helps eliminating landfill pollution and with this help minimize the threat this holds on vilde life and the environment en general.

Besides from the environmental advantages, an efficient and dedicated waste handling is an important point for any company's reputation and ESG communication

Summing up, recycling extruded polystyrene waste to new polystyrene products is the best waste handling practice for any company handling this material - both for reduction of the companies carbon footprint and for giving the XPS foam boards new life as the same or other type of product. 

Step-By-Step: Using RUNI XPS Recycling Equipment

The first step in styrofoam insulation recycling, is the collection of the material, and more specifically the logistics of this collection. As the other plastic foams, XPS contains great percentages of air, which results in a material that is very difficult to handle, in all aspects of handling, sorting, storage and transport. This is why COMPACTION is a key word when handling this material.


Step 1: Collect the waste

Firstly the material has to be collected and sorted. It is important that the XPS foam insulation boards do not contain nails/tape/wood pieces or other things, as these cannot be a part of the recycling proces. 

Collection of used XPS foam could be in a recycling station, where both companies and private persons can drop of their used XPS, for this material to be recycled. To make the most of it, it makes sense to compact at this same location - to avoid transporting air, as this is extremely expensive, and unnecessary. 

Another place that would make sense to collect extruded polystyrene for recycling is at the XPS manufactures, that might have off-cuts or faulty manufacture, that they need to compact and recycle, in house, or to sell the compacted blocks for recycling. 

When looking at foam board recycling, it would also make sense to offer collection of used XPS to demolition companies, as we know XPS is often used as insulation in buildings, there surely are material to be found, compacted and recycling when buildings are being torn down. 

Step 2: Compaction in the RUNI Screw press

RUNI has developed an SK370 to handle the XPS, which because of its structure can be difficult to compact.
When the XPS is fed into the Heavy Duty pre-crusher it will be pre-crushed and afterwards the screw and the automatic hydraulic jaws compact the material into uniform blocks. These can be stacked on a pallet for easy and efficient transport. The machine can be fed manually into a 45° hopper or with a conveyor belt into a vertical hopper. The different incorporated sensors ensure easy operation with the automatic start and stop function. It is also possible to place the compactor under a silo for either XPS dust or smaller pieces.

The compacting assures easy handling, and the XPS is taking up a LOT less space after being compacted. The compacted XPS can, in form of the blocks, be sold for further recycling. 
The RUNI solution for handling XPS foam is very environmentally friendly as it uses very little electricity and helps this material stay valuable and ready for the next step in it's life cycle. All in all a great sustainable alternative to the traditional landfill or incineration options. 

Compacted XPS

Step 3: Pack and ship the compacted XPS for further recycling

When the XPS is compacted into stable and stackable blocks, it is possible to take advantage of the maximum weight allowed on a truck and by this, not wasting the space and weight driving with air. 

The blocks are very easy to handle and stack, but RUNI also offers a block divider for automatic separation of the block while exiting the compactor, and a crane to lift the very heavy block and stack them correctly on the pallet. 

Polystyrene block compacted ready for transport

Take full control of XPS recycling with RUNI

What does the RUNI SK370 screw compactor for XPS offer?

  • Handles from 70- 200 kg/hour (depending on the density of the extruded polystyrene)
  • Uses only 15 kw main motor (and 4 kw Heavy Duty Precrusher)
  • Achieves up to 350 kg/m3 after compaction (10:1)
  • High safety levels
  • CE-approved
  • Can be set up in an silo solution for even less handling.
  • Block divider and crane are options for easy handling of the blocks

silo system recycling of XPS foam boards

Learn How to Recycle Other Waste Material

Do you have other types of waste, that you would like to recycle? Take a look at our other recycling guides:

Recycling of:

Besides our machines for compacting, we also offer solutions for dewatering of various packaging:

If you need any further information, or you have any questions about the RUNI machines, please fill out the form below. We will contact you as soon as possible.

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